News Briefs: Wireless hotspot program extended; GB concert series canceled

Residents who use the hotspots are urged to follow social distancing protocols in accordance with the guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Baker-Polito administration extends wireless hotspot program in unserved towns

Westborough — The Baker-Polito administration has officially extended the free wireless hotspot program that has delivered public high-speed internet connections to residents and students in unserved towns in response to the COVID-19 public health pandemic. The program, originally slated to end Tuesday, Sept. 1, will be extended through the end of 2020.

The program, announced in April by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech and KCST USA, the operator of the Commonwealth-owned MassBroadband 123 fiber optic network, has launched public hotspots in 26 communities that lack high-speed internet connectivity, providing a 250 Megabit per second wireless hotspot free of charge to towns or residents. The sites were connected with the active support of several regional internet service providers, including AccessPlus, Crocker Communications, and Westfield Gas+Electric.

A current list of hotspot sites is available on MBI’s website and via the graphic below. Each site will provide residents with instructions on how to access the hotspots. Residents who use these hotspots are urged to follow social distancing protocols in accordance with the guidance issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Image courtesy Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech

Progress continues on efforts to extend high-speed connectivity in unserved communities, projects that have been supported by over $55 million in direct grants from the Commonwealth’s Last Mile program. Of the 53 communities in the program, 21 now have completed projects, delivering broadband access to an estimated 18,000 citizens. Projects are nearing completion in another 11 communities, with service rolling out to residents and businesses by the end of 2020.

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Town cancels outdoor concert series at gazebo

Great Barrington — The town has suspended its live, free summer concert series at the Town Hall gazebo bandstand.

The state’s COVID-19 guidelines, which limit outdoor gatherings to 50 people, have created logistical challenges for the organizers. A seating reservation system was briefly attempted, but was deemed insufficient to ensure an enjoyable experience for all.

“To keep the total number of people at 50 or less, we’ve discovered there is no effective way to host the concerts that is not disruptive and intrusive,” said Lee Rogers, who coordinates the summer music series. “This was not a decision that we made hastily. Thanks for your support and understanding, and we hope to be able to bring live music back to the gazebo again soon.”

The town manager and health inspector were involved in lengthy discussions over the bandstand concerts. The town has already hosted several outdoor concerts at the venue; future events have been canceled.