In a statement released Monday, the Westborough institute said the National Telecommunications and Information Administration has formally approved its environmental assessment, a requirement to building the 1,338-mile Internet backbone network that will expand broadband access in Western and north central Massachusetts communities.
"This is an important milestone in moving the MassBroadband 123 project forward and reaching Gov. Deval Patrick's goal of broadband connectivity in the region," said MBI Director Judith Dumont in the statement. "We're making great progress toward bridging the digital divide."
The NTIA found that the MassBroadband 123 project will have no significant impact on biological and cultural resources in the service area, according to MBI officials. The environmental assessment, which assured compliance with state and federal environmental protection laws, analyzed the potential impact of fiber-optic cable deployment on water and air quality, geology and soil, land use and other resources in the project's service area. This finding was needed before any groundbreaking activity could begin on the project, including work that the pole owners will have to do in anticipation of the MBI's network build.
To expand high-speed Internet access in the region, the MBI will attach fiber-optic cable to more than 30,000 existing utility poles. It will begin full-scale aerial fiber deployment this summer and has been surveying the utility poles to determine what work will be required by the pole owners to make room on the poles for the MBI's cable. This effort is already under way and will be used by the pole owners to estimate and execute the necessary "make-ready" work that will begin on time in the late spring.
The MBI is a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a public economic development agency chartered by the commonwealth to spur innovation across Massachusetts. MTC will own the MassBroadband 123 network and is responsible for its design and construction, which is expected to be completed by summer 2013. MTC will soon issue a request for proposals for a design-build contractor to build the network.
The MBI recently signed an agreement with Axia NGNetworks USA to serve as the network operator for the MassBroadband 123 network. Axia will provide wholesale services on the network to broadband service providers and maintain and refresh the fiber-optic network to ensure its operability and efficiency. The MassBroadband 123 network will be open access to allow any broadband provider to connect and offer its services, which will increase competition and affordability of options available to consumers.
MassBroadband 123 will connect more than 120 communities and is a critical component of Patrick's initiative to expand broadband connectivity across the state. The MBI was awarded $45.4 million in federal stimulus funding to develop the MassBroadband 123 network. The commonwealth is providing $26.2 million in matching funds, bringing the total investment in the project to $71.6 million.
The environmental assessment does not appear to be available online.
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