FW: $145M Infrastructure Program, Upcoming Public Comment Period, & New Muni Grants!

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McClure, Christopher

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Nov 1, 2023, 3:04:00 PM11/1/23
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Christopher McClure

Chief Information Officer

City of Watertown, MA

617-715-8631

cmcc...@watertown-ma.gov

watertown-ma.gov

 

From: MBI (Mass. Broadband Institute) <mass...@masstech.ccsend.com> On Behalf Of MBI (Mass. Broadband Institute)
Sent: Wednesday, November 1, 2023 3:02 PM
To: McClure, Christopher <cmcc...@watertown-ma.gov>
Subject: $145M Infrastructure Program, Upcoming Public Comment Period, & New Muni Grants!

 

The Latest News on Digital Equity and Broadband in Massachusetts

 

 

MBI Program Updates - Fall 2023

 

$145M Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program Launched

 

MBI Will Host an Informational Webinar on Nov. 14th

 

 

In case you missed it, last week the MBI launched the Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program, a new competitive grant program funded by $145 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Capital Projects Fund. The Gap Networks program aims to expand connectivity to unserved and underserved locations throughout the state to help bridge the digital divide, with a particular focus on communities with substantial low-income households and disadvantaged populations.

 

Full details on program requirements, including details on the Technical Assistance webinar MBI is hosting on November 14th at 10 a.m., are available on the procurement page. 



 

 

 

 

Eight New Cities & Towns Supported through Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program

 

State Funds Help Develop Local Strategies to Increase Internet Access

 

 

Congratulations to the eight cities and towns that are being supported through the Municipal Digital Equity Planning program!



·     Ashby

·     Falmouth

·     New Marlborough

·     Orleans

·     Otis

·     Shutesbury

·     Springfield

·     Worcester



This state-funded program funds strategic consultation to cities and towns to help them identify barriers to internet access, boost direct community engagement, and executive digital equity plans to close the digital divide. These planning activities will include the development of strategic documents to identify the community's needs, interest, and key assets and provide a framework that will guide future municipal decision-making and potential investments to increase access and usage of the internet for our most impacted populations.

 

These new awards bring the total number of municipalities in the Municipal Digital Equity Planning program to 105.

 

MBI is accepting applications on a rolling basis, to learn more and submit an application for your town, click the button below.

 

 

 

Public Comment Period

for State Broadband and Digital Equity Plan to Open in November

 

 

Following months of public engagement, including numerous community listening sessions and focus groups, MBI is preparing to release the first draft of the State Broadband and Digital Equity Plan and the opening of the public comment period later in November. The MBI team wants to hear from you on how digital equity can be supported and improved throughout the Commonwealth to achieve Internet for All.

 

Later this month, the initial draft will be posted on the MBI website and will include both the form to submit your comments electronically, as well as ways that residents statewide can weigh in via typed or written comments.

 

Keep an eye out for follow up communications and learn more about this effort on our Internet for All landing page.

 

 

Save Money on Your Internet Bill

 

The Federal Communication Commission's Affordable Connectivity Program helps citizens across America save money on their internet bill with a $30 per month subsidy that can give them high-speed internet for free – depending on their plan.

 

Find out more information about the ACP and apply here.

 

 

Broadband & Digital Equity Working Group

 

Thank You to All of Our Partners Who Attended

 

 

MBI gathered its Digital Equity Working Group and guests to provide key updates about the Statewide Digital Equity Plan. This key group of leaders has been instrumental in providing feedback at each critical stage of the planning process.

 

We would like to especially thank David Podell and the MassBay Community College team for hosting the working group on their campus.

 

We were also joined by Deputy Undersecretary Helena Fruscio Altsman from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED).

 

The MBI Team would like to extend their appreciation to the entire working group for their commitment and dedication to this important work. We hope to continue building on these connections and growing the digital equity ecosystem across Massachusetts.

 

Additionally, our working group partners, MassINC and MACP, released a report on strategies to close the digital divide for affordable housing residents, click here to read the full report.

 

Thank you to all who attended the meeting:

 

·     Worcester Regional Research Bureau, Inc.

·     The Women's Edge

·     Verizon

·     Urban Edge Housing Corporation

·     Springfield Housing Authority Massachusetts

·     Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners

·     Massachusetts Executive Office of Economic Development (EOED)

·     Tech Goes Home

·     Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities

·     Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers

·     The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis

·     Preservation of Affordable Housing

·     Berkshire Community College

·     MassINC

·     Tech Foundry

·     Comm-tract

·     Massachusetts Workforce Association

·     Necta

·     City of Boston

·     Department of Telecommunications (DOT) and Cable

·     VA Boston Healthcare System

·     City of Lowell

·     Cape Cod Technology Council, Inc.

·     CSforMA, Inc.

·     Baystate Health

·     Western Mass Alliance for Digital Equity

·     The Arc of Massachusetts

·     US Department of Commerce, NTIA

·     Vinfen

·     Massachusetts Bay Community College

·     HR&A Advisors

·     KPMG US

·     Commonwealth Institute

 

 

City of Boston Receives $5M for Digital Equity Work from MBI

Funds Will Address Digital Equity and Bridge the Digital Divide, Including Expansion of 'Wicked Free Wi-Fi' Program

 

 

In late September, MBI Director Michael Baldino joined Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and regional leaders for the announcement of over $5 million in grants to address the digital divide across the City of Boston. These funds will support improving internet access in Boston Housing Authority (BHA) properties as well as recruitment efforts to enroll individuals in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Additionally, they will bolster telehealth, workforce development programs, and access to devices for the communities most impacted.

 

Digital equity is critical in our communities, and especially for those who are housing insecure. This effort will direct the necessary attention towards these populations, enabling them to fully participate in the modern economy and access the tools that they need to succeed.

 

Thank you Mayor Wu, BHA Administrator Kenzie Bock, City of Boston CIO Santiago Garces, and all of the City staff for your commitment to ensuring all Boston residents have reliable, affordable internet access regardless of where they live in the city!

 

 

 

First Lead For America Fellows Learning Session

 

Creating Digital Equity Opportunities Across MA

 

 

MBI recently hosted their first Lead For America cohort for a learning session and program updates. Our 15 fellows come from our partnership program with American Connection Corps program to establish a first-of-its-kind digital equity fellowship opportunity in Massachusetts.

 

Fellows have been placed at organizations across the Commonwealth, at non-profit organizations and on tribal lands, and are working to close the digital divide.

 

 

 

MAPC’s Apartment WiFi Program

 

Accepting Expressions of Interest to Participate in Program

 

Under MBI’s Digital Equity Partnerships Program, Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) has officially launched it’s Apartment WiFi initiative.

 

In-home broadband access is a key component of digital equity. Access to affordable, reliable, high-speed internet is crucial for Greater Boston residents to fully participate in work, school, and society. MAPC works with municipalities, public housing authorities, and affordable housing developers to build Wi-Fi networks for their residents.

 

MAPC is now accepting expressions of interest from public and non-profit affordable housing providers to participate in the Apartment Wi-Fi program. This program provides funding, project management, and procurement support to fund the construction of Wi-Fi networks which provide residents with equal or superior service than what is available from commercial ISPs, at no cost to residents. Funding covers all capital costs associated with network design, construction, and equipment, and the first year of ongoing operating expenses.

 

 

 

The Grand Opening of Tech Foundry's New Tech Hub

 

Working Together Towards an Inclusive Online Future

 

 

Congratulations to Tech Foundry for the grand opening of their new Tech Hub at Holyoke Community College last week! The hub will be instrumental towards closing the digital divide in the Valley and across Western Massachusetts, teaching digital skills, distributing devices, and offering free troubleshooting and IT assistance. These programs will make the internet more affordable and accessible for Massachusetts residents.

 

Thanks to Tech Foundry CEO Patricia Canavan, HCC President George Timmons, Ph.D., Holyoke Mayor Joshua A. Garcia, State Representative Patricia Duffy, Frank Robinson, Vice President for Community Relations and Public Health at BayState Health and chair of the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity, Kathy Bisbee, Director at the Alliance for Digital Equity, and Comcast for your support for this critical effort.

 

We were happy to support this program through our grant to the Western Massachusetts Alliance for Digital Equity earlier this year, and it's great to see it come together!

 

With programs like the Tech Hub, Massachusetts is working to make a more inclusive online future for everyone!

 

 

Digital Inclusion Week Recap

 

Celebrating Equity and Inclusion in the Digital Space

 

 

In an increasingly digital world, inclusion is key. Everyone deserves equal access to technology, knowledge, and opportunities, regardless of background or circumstance.

 

Digital inclusion is crucial to education, job opportunities, and vital services. It gives a voice to people who are being left out. Building connected communities is key for everyone to thrive.

 

MBI is committed to this mission to bring affordable, reliable high-speed internet to every home in in Massachusetts. Learn more about our Massachusetts Digital Equity activities.

 

MBI was a proud participant in the national 2023 Digital Inclusion Week, powered by NDIA, that ran from October 2nd to October 6th.

 

During this week, the City of Boston launched the application for its Digital Equity Fund application period launched which provides $1,522,200 in funding for programs such as the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), Telehealth, and Device Refurbishment. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. on November 13th. Click the button below to learn more.

 

Celebrating Digital Inclusion Week reminds us of our goal to narrow the digital divide for all of the communities in the Commonwealth.

 

 

 

Wrap Up of Our Statewide Listening Sessions

 

Internet For All is Achievable

 

 

On June 13, 2023, the MBI team announced the Internet for All Listening Tour, a series of regional meetings and focus groups that will inform the development of federal funding plans to help Massachusetts residents achieve digital equity.



The listening sessions, which concluded in October, gave an opportunity for the public to share their experiences, ideas, and vision for a more connected Massachusetts. They tackled key questions around internet access, adoption, affordability, digital skills training, and device availability.

 

Additionally, focus groups gathered input directly from covered populations and underrepresented communities identified by the federal programs.

 

Click here to see a collection of photos from all of our Listening Sessions.

 

 

 

Join Us at the Net Inclusion 2024 Conference

 

Team MBI will attend Net Inclusion 2024 in Philadelphia from February 13th-15th, and hopes to see our Massachusetts partners there!

 

The Net Inclusion conference, hosted by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), will bring hundreds of advocates, internet service providers, policymakers, and more from across the country to discuss digital equity and inclusion practices.

 

 

 

Meet the MBI Team

 

Meet the MBI team who are working tirelessly towards digital inclusion and ensuring everyone in the Commonwealth has equal access to technology and opportunities.

 

 

Michael Baldino

 

Director & MBI General Counsel

 

Cherylene Coss

 

Manager, Digital Equity, Outreach & Engagement

 

Kathryn Downes

 

Ecosystem Manager

 

 

Joshua Eichen

 

Director of Program Development

 

Cynthia Gaines

 

GIS Manager

 

Jody Jones

 

Senior Program Director

 

 

Cornell Robinson

 

Technical Director

 

Ariana Sarmiento Fielding

 

Digital Equity Planner

 

Madison Trepainer

 

Project Manager, Operations

 

 

In the News

 

Select Broadband News from Around the State

 

·     MassNonprofit News highlighted the $5 million grant funding, announced by Mayor Wu, for Boston to expand digital equity.

·     MBI Director of Program Development, Josh Eichen spoke to the Greenfield Recorder to highlight the goals of the statewide listening sessions and encourage citizens to provide feedback during the Public Comment Period later this month.

·     City Councilor Michael Fenton discussed with The Reminder about how funding from MBI will aid in bringing digital equity to Springfield.

·     The Telecompetitor covered the Broadband Infrastructure Gap Networks Grant Program launch.

 

 

 

 

When writing or responding, please remember that any email sent or received by an employee of the City of Watertown is subject to the Massachusetts Public Records Law (M.G.L. c. 66).
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