Yesterday, Governor Patrick came to UMass (see today’s Republican article; or the Governor’s blog, Engage!), and I was invited to sit on a panel to consider what young people need to thrive in Massachusetts. I stressed broadband access:
- About forty-five towns in Western Mass have little or no access to broadband.
- While Verizon deploys next generation technology (fiber) in Boston suburbs, Western Mass is still waiting for last generation technology (DSL).
- State regulators (DTC) must ensure that Verizon serves all of its customers in exchange for its monopoly status.
- Very rural parts of Maine and Vermont have broadband, but travel 10 minutes from UMass and you need a 56K dial-up modem (remember those?).
- “Last mile” infrastructure is the real need. (Not “middle mile.”)
- Springfield and Holyoke residents, who suffer from severe digital disparities, are joining forces with rural counterparts to increase access.
- Free Wi-Fi is available in downtown Amherst but not Springfield.
- Broadband infrastructure is a sustainable alternative to sprawl and strip malls; and it creates and attracts entrepreneurs and next generation professionals.
- Local broadband committees across Western Mass (SLBC, WMCIS, SBTC) are well organized and interconnected, and have developed authoritative technical capacity. They need to be at the table and receive regional, state, and federal resources.
Please steal these points and use them for your own purposes. And click here to see a “fiber to the home” plan I developed several years ago, and which (scarily) is still very relevant today. And The Springfield Institute has submitted an ambitious project proposal, called “Digital Unite,” to the US Department of Commerce Broadband Recovery Act Technology Opportunities Program to address the symptoms and causes of the digital divide head on (check our two-page summary here). The project is one of several great initiatives assembled into a single package by WesternMA Connect. We should hear about that in December.