In an effort to enhance communication across all of the unserved communities of Western and North Central Massachusetts, MBI has developed this page as a resource to respond to the questions and inquiries we receive from local community leaders and through our MBI Project Managers. We will update this page regularly with questions and answers, and we hope it will allow for greater understanding across all of the unserved communities.
Question: Why was it necessary to revise the Last Mile policy recently?
Answer: The purpose of the revision of the Last Mile Policy was to codify the programmatic modifications that have occurred as a result of the intensive project review of the Last Mile project that MBI and the Baker-Polito Administration completed in the spring of 2016.
Question: Please clarify the policy regarding utilization of the MassBroadband 123 network.
Answer: The Last Mile Policy states: “Unserved towns that seek financial and planning support from MBI for their Last Mile projects must build off of and utilize MassBroadband 123, unless the parties (MBI and the town) deem an alternative solution to be warranted.” Any town or group of towns that seek an alternative to building off of and utilizing the MassBroadband 123 network will need to provide the basis for that exception. MBI will not preemptively allow a town or group of towns to seek an alternative to the MassBroadband 123 network without knowing the basis for that request and deeming that the circumstances warrant that exception.
Question: What is MBI’s position on ownership and governance of network assets built with state and local tax money?
Answer: The Last Mile Policy, approved September 29, 2016 states: “Whenever possible, towns should look to financially established, private sector partners with demonstrated experience in the residential broadband market for broadband solutions without municipal ownership of the broadband assets. This focus would remove the significant financial and administrative burden of owning and operating a broadband network.” Consistent with the Last Mile Policy, there is no likelihood of MBI allowing broadband assets funded through the use of state and municipal funds to be owned by any entity, other than the municipality which paid for those assets, that is inexperienced, undercapitalized and not on strong financial footing.
Question: How were the construction allocations calculated? Are they subject to change?
Answer: The MBI Board of Directors and the Mass Tech Executive Committee approved a total of $40 million for the Last Mile project at the January 29, 2015 meeting of the respective boards. The allocation methodology divided the available funds into two categories of funding, up to $18 million for professional services costs incurred by MBI and $22 million for construction costs incurred within each town. Each town’s share of the $22 million reserved for the construction costs was created from a model through desktop analysis based on available data about each town. The analysis is fundamentally associated with the proportional share of route miles and number of premises for each particular town. The analysis was also based on a regional, ubiquitous fiber-to-the home approach that included video capabilities. The construction portion of the funding is a direct offset to the cost of broadband network construction for a town, whether that town chooses to partner with MBI for its network build, or if it seeks to build its own network without MBI providing professional services to the town. The professional services allocation continues to be intended to cover planning, design, engineering, program management, legal, and other direct costs incurred by MBI and is not available to be paid out directly to towns. The construction allocations will not be changing from this point forward, as there is a finite amount of money available for the project.
Question: Why did MBI decide to publish the RFP? Why now?
Answer: Solutions from private providers was one of several models that the Baker / Polito Administration stated it would support after the intensive program review and reset conducted in the Spring of 2016. (MBI Presentation) Recognizing that “one size does not fit all,” and that multiple paths to success could be pursued by the towns, has generated much interest from various private sector enterprises. Adhering to a competitive procurement process so as to ensure baseline requirements can be met along with the most affordable and sustainable solutions from proven private providers is important to the Commonwealth and MBI, thus, the publication of the RFP. The timing reflects our intention to respond to this renewed level of interest in as swift and comprehensive a manner as possible.
Question: Will all of the unserved towns be included in the RFP?
Answer: MBI will include all unserved towns in the RFP. We believe we have a fiduciary duty to allow towns to understand all of the potential options to provide broadband connectivity for their residents. That being said, there will be a clear path for towns to opt out of the process. However, there is no cost to participate in the RFP, so the RFP presents a chance for a town to gather more information about potential paths to success for the community.
Question: What is the proposed timeline for the RFP?
Answer: The RFP is expected to be posted on November 18, 2016. We expect responses to be received in January 2017. Depending on the number and scope of responses received and the need to seek supplemental information from respondents, the review process will likely take between thirty and ninety days. To the extent possible, we will alert towns as quickly as possible should clear options emerge for those towns.
Question: What if our town does not want to be involved in the RFP process? Can a town opt out?
Answer: Yes, towns can opt out of the RFP process; however, MBI recommends that all towns remain in the process to fully assess the range of potential broadband solutions that are available to a town. Participation in the RFP will not cost the town any funding and will not materially delay the town’s ability to pursue its own project. Further, the MBI will not force towns to pursue a broadband solution that flows from the RFP process, so there will be sufficient time and opportunity for a town to opt out once the scope of responses to the RFP become clear.
Question: Our town is considering our own RFP. Should we pursue that RFP or wait until the MBI RFP process is completed.
Answer: One of MBI’s goals in publishing this RFP is to remove the significant technical and financial burden from the towns required to publish its own RFP. MBI’s RFP is structured to cast as wide a net as possible, so it is unlikely that a town specific RFP would generate different, or better, options for a town than the MBI RFP. Given the significant burden and dedication of time and effort required to successfully run an RFP, MBI recommends that a town that is contemplating publishing its own RFP for broadband solutions postpone this effort until the results of the MBI RFP become clear.
Question: Will a town be required to pursue an option that comes out of the responses to the RFP rather than its own municipally owned project?
Answer: To be clear, the Baker-Polito Administration and MBI are fully committed to supporting the path that a town chooses for itself. Towns will continue to have the ultimate decision as to which path the town chooses to achieve a broadband solution. If a town seeks a route other than a solution presented by responses to the RFP, then MBI welcomes the town to continue to work with us.
Question: Will this new RFP looking for private partners delay the process for towns that wish to move ahead with current plans to build networks?
Answer: The release of the upcoming RFP does not deter MBI’s support of any town electing a municipally owned FTTH solution or materially delay a town’s project. MBI will continue to evaluate the responses and is on track to secure appropriate board approvals for the contract with the prevailing respondent to the RFP.
Question: How will a town be involved in the selection of its vendor, in the event that responses to the RFP generate private sector solutions for a town?
Answer: MBI will conduct the initial review of all respondents to the RFP to ensure that the potential partners comply with the threshold provider requirements as articulated in the RFP. If the town chooses to pursue the private sector solution rather than a municipally owned network, then the town could potentially be involved in the selection of these vendors in several ways once MBI has completed the initial review. If a town receives more than one qualified respondent, the town will have the ultimate decision-making authority as to which provider, if any, the town selects. In the event that one, or more, of the respondents seeks to provide cable services, the town will have to execute a franchise agreement, consistent with state and federal law, prior to that company providing services in the town. In those instances, MBI would likely execute an agreement with the cable provider that would make any grant award between MBI and the cable company contingent upon the successful completion of the cable franchise process. The town will lead the franchising process, and the only role for MBI will be to issue payment to the cable provider once the franchising process is complete.
Question: Can MBI predict what type of responses the RFP will generate? Will there be an effort to avoid “cherry picking” more attractive towns at the expense of those towns that are more difficult to serve?
Answer: The RFP is designed to solicit responses from providers that will design, build, own and operate a broadband network in as many of the remaining unserved towns as possible. The goal of the RFP is to facilitate as broad a response as possible, so that providers may offer solutions for any number of towns, from one to all of the remaining unserved towns. While we cannot predict the scope of the respondents’ responses, we hope to facilitate as broad a response as possible by weighting those responses that offer to cover more towns more favorably. With this factor, we will hopefully minimize “cherry picking,” or at least incentivize providers to offer solutions to as many towns as possible.
Question: What will happen if a town does not receive any proposals for a private sector broadband solution?
Answer: The MBI is committed to working to ensure that every town that wants a broadband solution in its town will receive one. Those towns that do not receive a response through the RFP process will continue to work with MBI to progress through the Readiness process to determine the best path forward to find a broadband solution that is consistent with the local needs and financial capabilities of that community.