NEW SALEM, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ -– As part of his Massachusetts Recovery Plan to secure the state’s economic future, Governor Deval Patrick today held a broadband development forum in Western Massachusetts where he moved to secure federal recovery funding for broadband expansion in the Commonwealth and unveiled a new interactive mapping tool to help further the Patrick-Murray administration’s efforts to bring high-speed Internet to communities across the state.

“Increased broadband availability leads to new jobs, better health care, and stronger public education services throughout Massachusetts,” said Governor Patrick. “We appreciate the strong support from civic and industry leaders, as well as citizens throughout Massachusetts as we expand broadband access in every community in the Commonwealth.”

Joined by state and local officials at New Salem Town Hall, Governor Patrick expressed his intention to designate the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) as the “eligible entity” for broadband mapping funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Established through a law the Governor proposed and signed last year, the MBI is responsible for accelerating broadband expansion in communities without high-speed Internet access by overseeing investments in infrastructure assets such as fiber-optic cables and wireless towers.

As part of the broadband forum, Governor Patrick unveiled a new interactive mapping tool using Google mapping technology that enables users to pinpoint their homes, businesses, or schools location on a map and enter their current mode of access to the Internet. Made possible by the MBI and the Massachusetts Geographic Information System, the technology will further the Governor and Legislature’s efforts to bring broadband to every corner of the Commonwealth.

“It is critically important that decision makers have a clear understanding of exactly where broadband is accessible and where it is not,” said Congressman John Olver. “The MBI’s mapping program will provide us with the information we need to put together a thoughtful, coordinated plan of attack to ensure that all of our communities have access.”

“More accurate mapping will help us to speed deployment of broadband in unserved areas of the state,” said MBI Director Sharon Gillett. “Residents, business owners, and others can now communicate directly with the MBI regarding their access, or lack of access, to broadband at the street address level, which will help us determine how to deploy broadband infrastructure and technologies.”

In keeping with his commitment to make broadband accessible and affordable, Governor Patrick is working with Congressman Olver, members of the Congressional delegation, and leaders in the Obama Administration to bring federal recovery funding to Massachusetts. ARRA provides for $7.2 billion to improve broadband access nationwide, including $350 million for grants to states to develop comprehensive broadband maps over the next two years.

Today, the Governor also designated the MBI as the Commonwealth’s aggregator for a coordinated filing to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for broadband competitive grant applications to ensure a balanced portfolio of applications that will meet the Commonwealth’s diverse broadband needs.

Over 25,000 businesses and 221,000 households are located in the 95 Massachusetts communities that lack adequate broadband because they have either limited or no broadband availability whatsoever. Studies show that communities with broadband access experience measurable increases in jobs, business expansion, and property values. Other broadband-enabled benefits include improvements in public safety and access to health care, educational opportunities, and civic participation.

Broadband investments are critical components of Governor Patrick’s Massachusetts Recovery Plan, which combines state, federal and, where possible, private efforts to provide immediate and long-term relief and position the Commonwealth for recovery in the following ways:

• Deliver immediate relief by investing in the road, bridge and rail projects that put people to work today and providing safety net services that sustain people who are especially vulnerable during an economic crisis;
• Build a better tomorrow through education and infrastructure investments that strengthen our economic competitiveness, prepare workers for the jobs of the future, and support clean energy, broadband, and technology projects that cut costs while growing the economy; and
• Reform state government by eliminating the pension and ethics loopholes that discredit the work of government and revitalize the transportation networks that have suffered from decades of neglect and inaction.

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