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Otis citizens to Gov. Baker: Where’s our broadband?

In a letter to the editor Otis Citizens for Connectivity write: "We here in the 'Golden West' are also part of Massachusetts and the 21st century. Without high-speed Internet ... there is a negative incentive for businesses to stay or relocate here."

To the Editor:

We, the undersigned residents of Otis, Massachusetts, with an interest in bringing all of Western Massachusetts into the digital 21st century, are deeply concerned over the continuing delays, obfuscations, inadequate communication and lack of transparency, that continue to plague such efforts.

Two recent news items were separately reported, yet are inextricably linked.

The first is the March 14, 2016 letter from the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) announcing that your office has requested a “pause” in the broadband project in Western Massachusetts — this to ostensibly instruct MBI to analyze all options relating to technologies, cost projections, design, delivery, governance, etc.

The second is an article in the March 26, 2016 issue of the Berkshire Eagle quoting the U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate that the Berkshire region is losing population at a rate greater than any other area in Massachusetts. The Census Bureau tags us as an “aging population” with fewer children. This coupled with anecdotal evidence from real estate agents that homes and businesses without current or prospective access to high-speed Internet are essentially under water and unmarketable.

Undoubtedly, without high-speed Internet this population exodus will continue to depress the real estate market and provide a negative incentive for businesses to stay or relocate here.

The “pause” for an MBI analysis begs the question: What exactly have they been doing for the last eight years? Many communities have followed MBI’s lead and held up their end of the deal and voted dearly earned local tax dollars to help fund the project. MBI has not followed suit, delaying the start of many make-ready projects.

We call upon you, through the strength of your office, to release this logjam and commit to the following:

  1.    A date certain for the conclusion of the analysis “pause,” with timely and public progress status reports.
  2.    Publication of up-to-date estimates of all technical and financial costs to facilitate local technical, financial and budgetary planning.
  3.    Convocation of a public meeting of all interested parties including, but not limited to, the Governor’s Office, Attorney General, MBI, Town representatives, and citizen broadband interest groups.

We here in the “Golden West” are also part of Massachusetts and the 21st century. We have a lot to offer to visitors from the East, out-of-state tourists and second homeowners. But we need the tools, population and entrepreneurs to stay productive and attract and retain all those that can aid in this endeavor.

Thank you for your attention to this now critical matter.

Bob Rosen

Ken Mayer

Arlene Tolopko

Dave Rice

Frank Tolopko

Dan Wollman

The writers are committee members of Otis Citizens for Connectivity (OCfC), Box 1312, Otis, MA 01253

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