BOSTON (WWLP) – Many rural towns in western Massachusetts have yet to get high speed internet. It has proven to be both an inconvenience and a drag on the area’s economy.
“We feel like we’re being held back economically. We feel like we’re being held back in terms of education and opportunity,” said State Representative Paul Mark (D-Peru).
State Rep. Mark, from the Berkshire County town of Peru, lives in one of thousands of households in Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire Counties that still use dial-up or satellite internet.
“I’m the only legislator in the entire state that I actually don’t have cell phone service, no high speed internet service, no cable television in my town,” said Mark.
The state is making progress. Lawmakers plan to work with rural towns to develop a strategy to bring high speed internet to the rest of western Massachusetts. So far, the state has spent more than $85 million on the broadband initiative and plans to spend an additional $50 million so that households are connected. But even that is not enough.
“The fifty-million, although it’s a lot of money and while we’ve already spent eighty-five, it’s going to cost more than that. It’s going to cost, at least, another fifty to sixty million,” said Committee on Ways and Means Chairman State Representative Stephen Kulik (D-Worthington).
Rural communities will be holding town hall meetings this spring to figure out how much each town will contribute. Depending on how those meetings go, rural communities can expect to have high speed internet and cable TV by 2019.