Massachusetts utilizing fire towers to expand broadband access

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) announced that it will be giving three Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) fire towers to expand broadband services in western Massachusetts. WiSpring of Great Barrington and AccessPlus of Byfield will gain use of the towers to provide wireless internet service to over 850 homes in the surrounding areas of Lenox, Richmond, Savoy and Tyringham.

The use of existing towers is part of a broader plan to expand wireless broadband access in western Massachusetts. The combination of wireless access and utilizing existing structural elements will allow for a significantly faster broadband deployment in places with gaps in broadband infrastructure.

“The MBI is committed to bringing high-speed Internet access to the unserved and underserved communities in the Commonwealth,” said Judith Dumont, MBI Director. “Using existing fire towers for broadband is an important step toward closing the digital divide, while we construct the MassBroadband 123 fiber-optic network.”

The towers will help provide last-mile broadband and are part of a broader agreement that will eventually utilize 47 fire towers statewide. The three towers awarded through an open and competitive Request for Proposal (RFP) to expand last-mile broadband services. The MBI expects to issue subsequent RFPs on a periodic basis for other DCR fire towers.

In July 2010, the MBI was awarded $45.4 million in federal stimulus funding to increase broadband access in north central and western Massachusetts. The funding was awarded through the highly-competitive NTIA Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program (BTOP). The Commonwealth is providing $26.2 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment in the project to $71.6 million.

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