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PRESS RELEASE - Downing Promotes Bill to Secure Broadband Access in Western Massachusetts
February 14, 2008

BOSTONThis morning State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D – Pittsfield) appeared before his colleagues during a public hearing held by the Joint Committee on Bonding, State Assets and Capital Expenditures to advocate for the swift approval of H. 4311, An Act Establishing and Funding the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. 

 

This legislation, filed by Governor Patrick, creates the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to leverage existing resources and expertise to meet an aggressive objective: broadband service for the 32 unserved communities by the year 2010.  This will be accomplished by creating the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund, capitalized by the issuance of a $25 million, general-obligation broadband bond.  This bond authorization will seek public-private partnerships to develop broadband infrastructure to all corners of the Commonwealth, targeting currently unserved communities.

 

Downing, who appeared before the Committee with State Representatives Denis E. Guyer (D – Dalton), William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D – Lenox) and Stephen Kulik (D – Worthington) stressed  that today access to broadband is not considered a luxury, but a necessity for continued economic development, improved educational opportunities, higher property values and advanced public safety initiatives. 

 

Passage of this legislation has topped Downing’s agenda during this session.  Downing, whose district is comprised of 48 communities in western Massachusetts, represents 22 towns that are unserved – or completely without access to broadband – and an additional 15 towns with only partial access. 

 

After the combined testimony of Downing, Guyer, Pignatelli and Kulik, Senator Mark Montigny (D – New Bedford), the Senate Chairman of the Committee, noted that the western Massachusetts legislative delegation has been relentless in their advocacy for this issue, and stated that this is exactly how the state should use bonding monies, to meet these unmet needs across underserved areas of the Commonwealth.

 

During today’s hearing various Patrick Administration officials spoke in favor of this proposal, including the Governor, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Daniel O’Connell, Telecommunications and Cable Commissioner Sharon Gillett and Administration and Finance Undersecretary Jay Gonzalez.  Representative Daniel E. Bosley (D – North Adams) also testified to record his strong support of the legislation.

 

The hearing room was packed with residents from western Massachusetts, many of whom shared a three hour bus ride to the State House to urge the Committee to expedite their review and approval of the bill.   



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