Zipping down the information superhighway

the state and federal governments are spending more than $100 million to bring wired broadband access to the 5 percent of Massachusetts residents who don’t have it and can’t get it.

Contractors are laying out more than 1,300 miles of fiber optic cable in 123 cities and towns from Worcester County westward. Part of the money has also gone to a private nonprofit group, OpenCape, which received $35 million in federal stimulus money, plus $5 million from the state, to plug gaps in the southeastern part of the state.

The work is concentrated in areas that private broadband providers have shunned because the potential customer base is not large enough to support the investment. Contractors have already laid a broadband cable along the 55-mile Interstate 91 corridor from Con­nect­icut to Vermont, providing cheaper access to rural towns such as Sunderland and Deerfield. The project is also expanding service to parts of Springfield and Greenfield that either have no broadband access or substandard access to it.

Once the project is completed, access to the fiber optic cable will be sold at a wholesale rate to any service pro­viders looking to bring high-speed Internet to customers.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is now retired. A veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

Judy Dumont, director of the Massachusetts Broad­band Institute, which is directing the initiative, says the investment of state and federal dollars is needed because high-speed Internet is no longer a luxury. “More than 80 percent of Fortune 500 companies only put their help wanted advertisements online,” she says. “It’s how people file taxes now, getting refunds in two weeks rather than months. It’s really creating a divide in second-class citizens.”

Dumont also points out the lack of broadband is affecting public safety, since police in 85 Massachusetts cities and towns do not have high-speed Internet providing them instant access to criminal and driving records.

 
Source: Massachusetts Broadband Institute. Click the map for a larger view.