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News Briefs: GB construction update; Last Mile grant to bring wireless internet to Florida, Savoy

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By Sunday, Apr 7, 2019 News

Construction update for the week of Monday, April 8

Great Barrington — Contractors will begin work on Elm Street installing drainage, and will also be working on School Street and Church Street installing curbs. On-street parking may be limited during construction hours, but streets will remain open to traffic.

Work will be 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. All inquiries can be directed to the town’s Department of Public Works at (413) 528-0867 or svandeusen@townofgb.org.

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Last Mile grant to bring wireless internet to Florida, Savoy

Westborough — The Massachusetts Broadband Institute, on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has finalized an agreement with WiValley-MA Inc. on a grant of up to $2,315,461 to construct and operate a wireless network that will bring high-speed internet connectivity to the towns of Florida, Hawley, Monroe, and Savoy. The four towns have agreed to aggregate their allocations under the Last Mile program and have entered into a separate 10-year agreement with WiValley, which will construct the wireless network and offer service to over 1,000 households in conjunction with Maine-based OTELCO, which will provide wireless internet and telephone services.

The Last Mile grant to WiValley is made under the MBI’s Flexible Grant Program.

WiValley has already delivered the first tower for the project to Savoy and construction will begin immediately, with completion of the entire network expected within 34 weeks. Premises will be connected as each stage of the four-phase project is completed, meaning some customers will gain access within six weeks, given the expedited timelines of wireless projects. The new network will utilize the Commonwealth’s MassBroadband 123 “middle mile” network as its primary connection to internet hubs elsewhere in the Commonwealth, also known as backhaul. The project will also rely on microwave links to enhance redundancy and reliability.

The multi-stage project aims to be completed this year and will deliver internet connectivity to at least 96 percent of the premises across the four towns, with at least 75 percent of the premises receiving broadband service at speeds that will meet or exceed the federal broadband standard of 25 megabits per second for downloads and 3 megabits per second for uploads. A portion of the premises in the four towns will have access to internet speeds of 12 mbps for uploads and 2 mbps for downloads.

The MBI’s Flexible Grant Program received five proposals covering 14 of the remaining unserved municipalities in western and central Massachusetts, including the WiValley proposal. This is the third wireless project supported by the Last Mile program, following a direct grant from the MBI to the town of Warwick in 2016, as well as a pilot grant from the MBI and an award from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development’s Last Mile Infrastructure Grant program to the town of Royalston.

Of the 53 communities that were either completely or partially unserved at the beginning of 2017, only three remain after this award, as 50 towns are now on a dedicated path to broadband. The Commonwealth has awarded nearly $34 million total to close broadband gaps in western Massachusetts and the Berkshires.

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