Lawmakers mull proposal to expand internet access to rural communities

Proposal would expand broadband access to 40 rural communities.

BOSTON (WWLP) – Internet access is something many Massachusetts residents take for granted. But some towns in the western part of the state still aren’t up to speed.

Many Massachusetts towns with fewer than 10,000 residents don’t have high speed internet access. The state is reviewing proposals from private companies like Charter and Comcast to expand broadband access to 40 rural communities.

Each town will decide whether to accept the proposal or to use a grant from the state to build and operate their own network. If the town accepts a provider proposal, the state will pay for construction, then the provider would take over the rest of the cost.

Once the network is complete, customers will pay the provider for high speed internet.

“Our money only opens the door,” Peter Larkin, the Chairman of the Mass. Broadband Institute explained. “At the end of the day, they’re the ones that are taking the risks on. That’s a tremendous burden off the towns. The towns do not have to borrow any money with the proposals that are on the table.”

The state estimates that it could take at least two and a half years before rural towns will be connected to high speed internet.