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Massachusetts Taxpayers To Spend $45 Million More On State Broadband Network

November 16, 2017

According to the Berkshire Eagle, Massachusetts state legislators are getting ready to spend another $45 million to bring high-speed broadband to rural areas of the state.

As readers of this blog know, the Bay State is home to a $90 million statewide, government-owned broadband network that is operated by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI). Peter Larkin, chairman of MBI, told the Eagle that MBI officials have known “there was probably going to be a need for more money.”

As the Eagle puts it, despite the $90 million already spent, the state “couldn’t quite solve” the question of how to bring last mile service to several communities. The MBI still needs to connect eight towns in western and central Massachusetts to the statewide network.

The Eagle notes that the additional funding comes as MBI is “racking up legal expenses as it deals with cases in both U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court.” (Read more about the legal troubles here and here.)

To help solve its last mile problems, MBI is looking for private sector partners to help. The Eagle explained that “about $5 million of the new broadband funding will be used to increase incentives for private-sector investment in broadband service for towns still on the sidelines.”

Communities that already have last mile service from MBI are experiencing problems as well. The Eagle reported that these towns have faced “unanticipated costs” because of “miscalculations” made “years ago by a state consultant.” Today those towns are using local taxpayer dollars to cover the extra costs. According to the Eagle, a portion of the $45 million would go to those towns and will be allocated based on need.