Proactive, Flexible Stance . . .

THE MASSACHUSETTS BROADBAND INSTITUTE (MBI) HAS SET a fast pace in the weeks since it first announced a new direction and level of flexibility. For a Town like Hawley, this is the first time that Town officials and committee members have felt like they’re really “in the game,” as critical criteria have changed and a new attitude of cooperation has become apparent. Here’s a six-point analysis of actions MBI has taken to keep things moving since May 10:

MBI has changed its stance on wireless. Whereas before MBI banned use of wireless altogether, the Institute is now willing to allow (and fund) it as long as the wireless network meets MBI criteria regarding speed and distrubution. Because of the huge cost difference between fiber and wireless, this makes things affordable for Hawley.
MBI has reasserted the speed standards. Required speeds to qualify for Broadband have jumped around over the past few years. MBI has now reasserted them at the FCC standard: 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) for downloading; 3 Mbps for uploading. We believe these speeds can be achieved. This speed capability is being tested by the Town of Middlefield, MA.
MBI has clarified the network distribution requirement. To qualify for funding, a Town’s network must be available to 96% of all households and business units, whether all of those people want to subscribe to the service or not. This used to be called “ubiquity,” and was a source of varying interpretations and a lot of confusion. Hawley may have to add a few poles to meet the new criterion. But with a standard this precise, we’ll know exactly when we’ve reached it.
MBI has funded a wireless Pilot Project. In order to determine what speeds are possible using the new wireless technology, MBI has commissioned the Town of Middlefield to conduct a pilot project with 50 users, in varying types of terrain. Assuming success, Hawley and Towns like it will receive data that confirms that wireless meets MBI’s standard.
MBI is considering Hawley’s request to reinstate the East Hawley Firehouse as a CAI (Community Anchor Institution). This was one of the outcomes of a June 8 meeting between MBI Liaison Bill Ennen, Hawley Selectboard Chairman John Sears, and Communications Committee Chair Rick Kean. John subsequently sent a letter to MBI Board Chair Peter Larkin on June 20 requesting reinstatement. Benefits to Hawley:
Better communications / training for Firefighters / First Responders;
♦ Stronger
East Hawley signal;

♦ More stable overall Hawley network.
Per MBI’s recommendation, Hawley has submitted an MBI Readiness Request Form. By a number of measures, Hawley is one of the least “ready” of the 44 Towns that are under the purview of MBI, in that we have not had a vote that would authorize a construction project such for a Broadband network, nor for its funding or financing. But also at the June 8 meeting, Bill Ennen explained that the process is designed to be as much a collaboration as it is an evaluation — various agencies tied to the process will provide information and advice to Towns that have weak points in their programs to help them move along. On that basis, it was decided to complete and submit the form. For a Town with minimal resources like Hawley, a collaborative process is exactly what we need. And since our basic starting point was “No !,” we continue to have nowhere to go but up.

We look forward to the next steps in the journey.