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News Briefs: Downing secures passage of Mt. Washington broadband bill

S. 1978 authorizes the Town of Mount Washington to establish, own and operate a broadband infrastructure.

Downing secures passage of Mt. Washington broadband bill

Boston — Under the leadership of State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield), the Massachusetts Senate yesterday enacted S. 1978, An Act authorizing the town of Mount Washington to establish, own, and operate broadband infrastructure and services and to issue bonds or notes therefor.

This home rule petition, filed on behalf of Mount Washington by Downing and State Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli (D- Lenox) was approved by a majority of Mount Washington voters during a Special Town Meeting on July 13, 2015. It was initially referred to the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities & Energy (TUE) for review and consideration and received a favorable report from the Committee on September 21, 2015. Downing serves as the Senate chair of the Committee.

The bill was endorsed by the Senate in October and advanced by Pignatelli in the House before receiving a final enactment vote in Thursday’s informal Senate session.

S. 1978 authorizes the Town of Mount Washington to establish, own and operate a broadband infrastructure project without establishing a municipal light plant. Further, the legislation grants the Town authority to borrow funding to support the project for periods of up to 20 years.

While state law calls for a town to have or establish a municipal light plant in order to borrow funds to support construction of such infrastructure, Mount Washington’s officials believe forming a municipal light plant would be unnecessary and onerous given the small size (fewer than 140 residents) of their community.

The legislation will now go to the Governor who has up to 10 days to review and sign it into law or return it with an amendment or veto.

–E.E.

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