join us button
 

Massachusetts Tries To Force Contractor To Operate Government Broadband Network Amid Mounting Losses

April 5, 2017

Based on comments last Friday in federal court, it seems likely that many of the government institutions and other entities that are connected to the network will find themselves without a broadband connection. 

According to Government Technology, in court last week Robert J. Kaler, a lawyer representing the Bay State, “raise[d] doubts” about whether the government would be able to find a replacement for KCST USA, the firm that now operates the network, which is called MassBroadband 123. More than raising doubts, the lawyer’s comments seemed dire. Kaler said, “The old expression applies: there’s no sense in asking if the air is any good if there’s nothing else to breathe.” He also said, “God help us if something (bad) happens here.”

Paul McMorrow, director of policy and communications for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, echoed Kaler’s arguments in an interview with Government Technology. He said that the state had “to assume the worst”—that no other company would want to take over the failing network. The state is developing “contingency plans,” McMorrow said, in case it cannot find a new operator.

Massachusetts 123 serves police in dozens of communities, Government Technology, said, including Fitchburg and Leominster. The only thing that McMorrow could promise is that the government is “committed to ensuring uninterrupted access in the short term to the anchor institutions connected to the network and to ensuring the long-term viability of the network.” (Emphasis added.)

In court, the lawyer representing KCST USA said the firm had lost $17 million as a result of its deal to run Massachusetts 123. He also argued that a “botched the rollout of the network” by the government and the Bay State’s failure “build it properly or deliver an agreed-upon customer base” were the reasons for its massive losses. KCST is “seeking compensation for its losses,” Government Technology said. (It’s unclear based on the Government Technology report who would reimburse KCST for those losses.)

Kaler, the lawyer for Massachusetts, argued KCST should have to “continue to operate the network even if” it “went into bankruptcy.” He also said that siding with the government’s position is the only way “to ensure there is no disruption in service for the hundreds of municipal customers that rely on it.”

The judge in this case is currently considering that request.