Baker-Polito Administration Extends Wireless Hotspot Program in Unserved Massachusetts Towns

Thursday, December 3, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

MBI logo

Baker-Polito Administration Extends Wireless Hotspot Program in Unserved Massachusetts Towns

Existing Outdoor Hotspots Extended to June 30, 2021, and Option Added for Indoor Hotspots

New Expansion Funded by Commonwealths Economic Recovery Effort

 

WESTBOROUGH – The Baker-Polito Administration has officially extended the free wireless hotspot program launched in unserved Massachusetts towns in response to the COVID-19 public health pandemic. The existing outdoor hotspots will be extended to June 30, 2021, and in addition, the Commonwealth has offered 24 communities the option to add an indoor hotspot free of charge to provide critical connectivity over the winter months.

The expanded effort was made possible by the broadband funding announced in the statewide Economic Recovery Plan launched on October 22nd, which allowed for the extension of outdoor hotspots to the end of June, plus the addition of the new indoor hotspots. The offer allows unserved towns to work with the hotspot program team to identify a location where residents could access the high-speed wireless connections in a safe, socially-distanced manner. The indoor offer would only cover the wireless access point and internet connectivity, with each town managing accommodations onsite.

The hotspot program was initially announced in April by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) and KCST USA, the operator of the Commonwealth-owned MassBroadband 123 fiber optic network. The program launched public hotspots in 26 communities that lack high-speed internet connectivity, connected with the active support of regional internet service providers including AccessPlus, Crocker Communications, and Westfield Gas+Electric (WG+E).

In late November, the MBI offered the indoor hotspots to 24 towns and is actively engaging municipal leaders to finalize plans. Those communities include:

 

Becket

Florida

Monroe

Royalston

Blandford

Goshen

Monterey

Sandisfield

Charlemont

Hawley

New Braintree

Savoy

Chesterfield

Heath

New Marlborough

Tolland

Colrain

Leyden

New Salem

Warwick

Egremont

Middlefield

Otis

Windsor

Progress continues on efforts to extend high-speed connectivity in the remaining unserved communities, projects which have been supported by over $55 million in direct grants from the Commonwealth's Last Mile program. Of the 53 communities in the program, 21 have completed projects that deliver broadband access to an estimated 18,000 citizens.

Seven unserved municipalities which have existing outdoor hotspots – Ashfield, Cummington, Hancock, Petersham, Washington, Wendell, and Worthington – have Last Mile projects that are on track to be complete by the end of 2020, so were not added to the current expansion. Outdoor hotspots will remain active until the end of December and if any of those communities are not complete by that time, they will be automatically enrolled in the new extensions, ensuring access to critical broadband connections for residents.

A current list of active hotspot sites is available on MBI’s website. Each facility that hosts a hotspot is connected to MassBroadband 123, the 1,200 mile fiber-optic network launched in 2014 with federal and state support. The sites provide residents with instructions on how to access the hotspots and residents who connect to the wireless service are urged to follow social distancing protocols in accordance with the guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

###

About the Massachusetts Broadband Institute

A division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is working to extend high-speed Internet access to homes, businesses, schools, libraries, medical facilities, government offices, and other public places across the Commonwealth. Learn more at https://broadband.masstech.org.

About KCST USA

KCST USA is the operator of the state-owned MB123 network and operates over 1200 miles of fiber in more than 120 western and central Massachusetts communities. KCST enables education, health, commerce, and government services in Western and Central Massachusetts by connecting customers to the state-of-the-art MB123 fiber network.  Learn more at https://KCSTUSA.com.

Contact: 

Brian Noyes, MassTech/MBI, noyes (at) masstech.org