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Secretary Locke, Senator Kerry, Governor Patrick and Represenatives Olver and Neal Announce $45.4 Million Recovery Act Investment to Expand Broadband Internet Access and Spur Economic Growth in Massachusetts

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U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, joined by Senator John Kerry, Governor Deval Patrick and Representatives John Olver and Richard Neal, today announced a $45.4 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) investment to help bridge the technological divide, boost economic growth, create jobs, and improve education and healthcare in Massachusetts.

The grant to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (Mass Broadband 123) will bring high-speed Internet access to western Massachusetts and connect the region to the rest of the state’s digital economy. Last week, President Barack Obama announced $794 million in new projects that will expand broadband access and adoption across America, including the grant to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute.

“This critical investment will lay the groundwork for sustainable economic growth by connecting areas of Massachusetts that have been without the full economic, educational and social benefits of high-speed Internet,” Locke said. “This $45.4 million grant to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute will pay dividends for decades by expanding high-speed Internet access to public safety facilities, schools, local and state government facilities, and dozens of healthcare providers.”

The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (Mass Broadband 123) plans to link almost 1,400 community anchor institutions through a new middle mile fiber network. By constructing over 1,300 miles of new fiber in areas such as the Pioneer Valley and mountainous Appalachian regions where connection costs are frequently two or three times as high as in the eastern part of the state, this project intends to provide 1.5 Mbps-10 Gbps high speed service to public safety entities, K-12 schools and community colleges, local and state government facilities, and dozens of healthcare providers in economically distressed areas across western Massachusetts.

“This wasn’t easy and it didn’t happen overnight. I remember sitting with our state legislators and business leaders in 1998 talking about how to wire western Massachusetts for the future. Some people said it was a pipe dream, and now we’ve proven them dead wrong. We’ve been fighting a long time to make this day a reality for western Massachusetts and I couldn’t be happier. This is history-making. Broadband service is essential to the region’s economic future.  Our businesses and our kids will feel the legacy of this network for decades to come. Secretary Locke, Governor Patrick, Congressman Olver, Congressman Neal and our state leaders were great partners every step of the way and I was proud to champion this effort in Washington. Now, after so many letters and a public plea in the Small Business Committee, this is one huge victory for western Massachusetts. Together with the Open Cape grant we won last year, we can safely say that Massachusetts will have blanket broadband coverage within the next few years, and I couldn’t be happier,” said Senator Kerry.

“We have been working and hoping for this for a long time," said Governor Deval Patrick. “I am thankful beyond measure to Secretary Locke, the entire Obama Administration and our Congressional delegation for helping us to expand economic, academic, health and cultural opportunities for the people of Western and North-Central Massachusetts.”

“Since the national downtrend in manufacturing, my District has developed a large percentage of small and home businesses. These businesses are currently dependent on dial-up, severely limiting their ability to compete. Now these companies will no longer need to bring their laptops to library parking lots or spend countless hours downloading data on dial-up to run their businesses,” said Congressman John Olver.

“The $45 million federal award announced today, combined with $26 million in state matching funds, will bring affordable high speed internet access to more than one million people, businesses and community organizations throughout western Massachusetts. The combined $71 million investment will create jobs and strengthen our local economy. With this broadband technology expansion, the people and institutions in 123 communities will be active partners in the 21st century digital economy, and finally bridge the digital divide. I thank Secretary Locke for visiting the region today for such a significant and important announcement,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to fund projects that will expand access to and adoption of broadband services. NTIA is utilizing $4.7 billion of that funding for grants to deploy broadband infrastructure in the United States, expand public computer center capacity, and encourage sustainable adoption of broadband service.

Today's announcement is part of the second round of BTOP grant awards, which will continue on a rolling basis. NTIA will make all BTOP awards by September 30, 2010, and has thus far invested in 111 BTOP grants to benefit communities nationwide.

Fact sheets with further information about all BTOP grants are available on the NTIA program web site here: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/broadbandUSA.