Today, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito visited Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E), a public utility that is assisting 20 Western Massachusetts communities construct municipal-owned fiber-optic broadband networks that will help address the lack of high-speed internet connectivity. These WG+E-managed construction projects have received more than $19 million in support from the Commonwealth’s Last Mile Infrastructure Grant program.
Since 2016, we’ve invested more than $30 million to increase broadband connectivity throughout Western Massachusetts, and we are thrilled to see the progress communities have made,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our visit today with Westfield Gas + Electric solidified our confidence in their leadership in bringing 20 Last Mile communities online. Access to high-speed, broadband internet is vital for our businesses and families, and we are pleased to see continued momentum on this critical issue.
“Our Last Mile leadership team has made significant progress in accelerating local projects in our unserved and underserved communities, and their impressive efforts have led to real results,” said Lt. Governor Karyn Polito. “Now, nearly all of our last mile communities have a plan in place to increase broadband access for homes, and businesses. This means more residents will have access to reliable, high-speed internet, a necessity in today’s increasingly connected world, and Governor Baker and I are proud of these accomplishments.”
The Governor and Lt. Governor received a status update from Housing and Economic Development Deputy Secretary Carolyn Kirk and Peter Larkin, Board Chair of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute and Special Advisor to the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Last Mile project, on the progress of all 53 communities being supported by the Commonwealth’s Last Mile program. In addition to the 20 municipal projects managed by WG+E, the Baker-Polito Administration has provided grants to two other municipal-owned broadband projects, including the now completed fiber-optic network owned by the Town of Mount Washington and a hybrid fiber optic-wireless project in Royalston. The state has also awarded over $11.5 million in grants through the Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech to support broadband expansion projects, awards that have funded the expansion of private high-speed internet networks in 10 unserved communities and in another nine communities that are ‘partially-served’, as well as a town-managed wireless project in the Town of Warwick, Mass.
Following the Last Mile update, WG+E executives provided the Governor and Lt. Governor with a status update on specific projects. Additionally, leaders from New Salem, Otis, Plainfield, and Shutesbury addressed their experience working with WG+E to construct municipal-owned fiber optic networks. These communities are supplementing state grants by investing local tax dollars to support construction of these networks.
Following the briefing, WG+E executives led the members of the Administration on a tour of their facilities, highlighting the technologies being utilized in each of the unserved community to help deliver state-of-the-art 21st Century connectivity. During the tour, the Governor and Lt. Governor learned about WG+E’s long history, which dates back to 1860, and met many of WG+E’s 83 employees who help deliver critical utility services to the City of Westfield and the surrounding region.
Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito received updates from officials of the four unserved towns and officials from Westfield Gas + Electric, including:
- Daniel Howard, General Manager, Westfield Gas + Electric
- Aaron Bean, Operations Manager, Westfield Gas + Electric
- MaryEllen Kennedy, Broadband Committee Co-Chair, Town of New Salem
- Bill Hiller, Member, Board of Selectmen, Town of Otis
- Kimberly Longey, Manager of the Municipal Light Plant, Town of Plainfield
- Gayle Huntress, Co-Chair of the Broadband Committee and Manager of the Municipal Light Plant, Town of Shutesbury