FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MBI Publishes Proposals to Close Broadband Gaps Under ‘Flexible Grant Program’
MBI & Unserved Municipalities to Meet to Evaluate Submissions, Consider Options
WESTBOROUGH – The Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI) has published the responses sent in by broadband network providers to the MBI’s solicitation for proposals, called the Flexible Grant Program (FGP), to identify potential broadband solutions for unserved municipalities in the MBI’s Last Mile footprint. Initially launched by the MBI on October 5th, the goal of the FGP is to provide grant funding to capable communications network companies willing to design, build, own, operate and maintain a broadband network which meets or exceeds the current FCC broadband benchmark of 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) download or 3 Mbps upload.
As noted in the initial call for proposals, the FGP “seeks creative, flexible solutions to meet this critical challenge” and is intended to serve as an open, rolling solicitation for innovative approaches that will permit MBI and the unserved towns to establish partnerships with providers able to deliver reliable broadband access on a long-term basis to as many residents as possible based on available public funds.
The MBI received five proposals to address broadband access in 14 unserved municipalities in the Last Mile footprint. The proposals are available via the URL below:
“Our goal is to work hand-in-hand with each municipality to work through each proposal to identify the approach and the one that will work best for that town,” said Peter Larkin, Board Chair of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and Special Advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Last Mile project. “We’ve seen amazing movement in the Last Mile program over the past 18 months and are committed to go the extra mile to get these municipalities connected.”
Similar to MBI’s previous Request for Proposals for private sector solutions, which concluded with the issuance of grants to serve 6 towns and approximately 4,000 premises, the MBI will work with the unserved municipalities to evaluate each proposal. The MBI will afford considerable deference to each towns’ judgment about the most appropriate broadband solution to meet the long-term needs of its residents.
Following the posting of the proposals, the MBI notified each covered municipality to schedule an initial review meeting over the coming weeks, and additional meetings could be scheduled between the MBI, the town, and/or potential provider(s) to discuss the proposals. At any time a town wishes to decline a provider offer, the Board of Selectmen should formally notify MBI so as to narrow the search for a broadband solution.
The FGP is one of several options the Commonwealth is undertaking to close the Last Mile gaps in both unserved and underserved towns in Western and North-Central Massachusetts. Of the 44 communities that were completely unserved at the beginning of 2017, 33 towns have committed to a path forward and are on their way to a broadband solution. That includes support from the MBI’s programs highlighted above and the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development’s (EOHED) Last Mile Infrastructure Grant Program has awarded 22 towns a total of $19.5 million for projects that will cover 13,000 premises. In addition, the MBI awarded a $4 million dollar grant in August 2016 that will help close broadband gaps in nine ‘partially-served’ communities in Western and Central Massachusetts.
About the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI):
A division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (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, allowing for greater participation in the global economy and civic society. The MBI also promotes broadband usage and adoption by residents and small businesses. Learn more at http://broadband.masstech.org.
Brian Noyes, MassTech/MBI
(508) 870-0312 X: 293, noyes (at) masstech.org