Imagine a future time when, after years of snowless winters and dry summers, Western Massachusetts faces a water supply crisis. Open a faucet and water just trickles out. New "broadwater" technology is available which could transport huge volumes of water to the region through "fiber-aqua" pipes. But companies building broadwater systems are not serving rural areas because they don't see any profits to be made there. So the commonwealth of Massachusetts creates the Massachusetts Broadwater Institute (MBI) to build a network of pipes in unserved towns.
Excitement grows as crews lay pipes along major roadways. But as the MBI project nears completion, anticipation turns to frustration when people realize that the pipes will serve community facilities like town halls, schools and fire stations, but not homes and businesses. Pipes may pass directly in front of your home, but you can't connect to them. Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.
Today in Western Massachusetts the crisis is not the flow of water but the flow of information. Many people can only get Internet connections which are just a trickle compared to the high-speed Internet service offered elsewhere by cable and phone companies. But they do not serve many rural areas because they don't see any profits to be made there. To bring service to people in those areas, the Patrick administration created the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. Using state and federal funds, MBI is building a fiber-optic network in 123 Western and Central Massachusetts towns, known as MassBroadband123.
Excitement is growing as crews string fiber-optic cables along major roadways. A segment of MB123 will go live next month in south Berkshire County, with a completion date this summer for the entire network. It will serve Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs) such as town halls, schools, libraries, and public health and safety facilities. A worthwhile endeavor, but anticipation is turning to frustration as people realize that their homes and businesses will still not be served after the network is built. Fiber "pipes" may pass directly in front of your home, but you won't be able to connect to them.
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