Boston- Today, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D-Pittsfield) took the floor of the Senate Chamber to urge his colleagues to support monumental legislation investing $40 million into broadband infrastructure upgrades throughout western Massachusetts. The broadband bond, passed by the Massachusetts House ten days ago, received the unanimous approval of the Senate today.
According to the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED), there are 32 unserved communities – with no access to high speed internet whatsoever – in the Commonwealth, all but one of which is located in western Massachusetts. Additionally, there are 63 underserved communities statewide, where broadband service is only available in certain parts of the town.
Representing 22 unserved and 15 partially served communities in his Berkshire, Hampshire and Franklin Senate District, Downing has made passage of the broadband bond his top legislative priority this session. Since unveiled by the Patrick Administration on the steps of Becket Town Hall on August 2, 2007, Downing has been a champion of the initiative, working with Senate Leadership, his House colleagues and the Administration to ensure its swift passage.
“Passage of this bond ensures that the lack of high speed internet service in over one-third of western Massachusetts will not be ignored any longer,” lauded Downing. “This existing digital divide slows and deters economic development, threatens public safety and health and restricts creativity in our classrooms. Today’s action will bring broadband to the 32 western communities who currently lack what is taken for granted in the rest of the Commonwealth.”
The legislation creates the Massachusetts Broadband Institute within the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) to secure existing resources and expertise to meet the ambitious goal of procuring broadband service for the 32 unserved communities by the year 2010. The Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund, created in this bill, is subsidized by a $40 million bond authorization. Public-private partnerships will be sought by the Broadband Institute to develop infrastructure in all corners of the Commonwealth, prioritizing currently unserved communities.
During his remarks on the Senate Floor, Downing noted how it was appropriate for the Senate to pass this bill today as a transportation bond bill was also on the agenda. “For far too long, the towns of my district have had no access to the on-ramp of the information superhighway,” said Downing.
The bill is now before the House of Representatives for final enactment.