Patrick Announces Broadband Highway Partnership
Gov. Deval Patrick on Tuesday announced the partnership that, with the investment of $4.3 million in state bonds, will complete a MassHighway fiber-optic conduit along a 4.56-mile section of I-91 at the Vermont border. That will turn the road into a true high-speed information highway running more than 50 miles from Connecticut to Vermont.
Completing the last five miles will enable collaboration across state borders in a variety of areas, including public safety, education, e-health and access to Internet, say administration officials.
"We are determined to empower all students and businesses with the tools they need to succeed," said Patrick, in a statement. "By leveraging an existing road project to bring broadband access to Western Massachusetts, we are positioning the commonwealth to compete for federal stimulus grants and investing wisely in our future."
A measure passed last year dedicted $40 million to bringing broadband access to underserved and unserved regions in the state. Most of those areas are in Western Mass., including a large chunk of the Berkshires. The legislation created the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to facilitate broadband initiatives.
Two of the six 1.25-inch fiber-optic lines will be used by MassHighway for its Intelligent Traffic System. The other four conduits, reserved for economic development and the build-out of broadband networks in Western Mass., will be leased by the MBI, which will own the fiber placed in one of the conduits and lease the other three for future development.
The $30.7 million Intelligent Traffic System is expected to be completed in 2010. Much of the funding for it and additional conduits is the result of efforts at the federal level by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, who attended the announcement at the MassHighway District 2 office.
"I am enormously grateful for Governor Deval Patrick's efforts to bring the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and the Executive Office of Transportation together to partner on this important project," said Olver in a statement. "It is my strong belief that the installation of telecommunications infrastructure should be considered anytime the ground is opened for a state road construction project."
By providing a critical infrastructure component to the future Western Massachusetts broadband ring, the MBI-EOT partnership is expected to greatly enhance the state's grant application for broadband funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
While it is typical for highway broadband projects to result in long-haul networks that can only be accessed every 40 or 50 miles by broadband carriers and providers, the four economic development conduits along I-91 will sweep out to 33 shared resource nodes where providers can access the cable over the course of 55 miles. Once populated with fiber, the new economic development conduit and 33 access nodes — each less than two miles apart — will enable carriers and providers to flexibly and quickly deploy a wide variety of network designs that can reach citizens and businesses.
"Improvements to our underserved areas here in Western Massachusetts are certainly welcome and necessary," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli. "Better access to the Internet is an issue very important to my constituents and I am very excited about this project."
The MBI portion of the project is already benefitting from MassHighway's progress to date: rights of way and approval from conservation commission are secured and engineering is 70 percent complete, crews and equipment are mobilized and construction is currently under way.
To learn more about this and other economic recovery efforts, go to www.mass.gov/recovery.