ASHFIELD, MA – The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), a state agency working to extend affordable high-speed Internet access throughout Massachusetts, awarded a $50,000 grant to WiredWest to advance last-mile broadband solutions. WiredWest, a coalition of 47 towns in western Massachusetts, will use the grant along with in-kind services and additional funding to complete its planning process for a fiber-to-the-premises network in its member towns in 2011 and 2012.

The towns in the WiredWest coalition, with a total of 27,000 households and more than 3,000 businesses, are unserved or underserved by high-speed Internet. To address this need, WiredWest is working to design, build and operate a last-mile, municipal fiber optic network that will offer Internet, phone and television services to interested residents and businesses.

According to the MBI, grant recipients were selected through an open, rigorous and highly competitive process. Monica Webb, spokesperson for WiredWest, describes the award as “an important contribution towards creating critical, long-lived telecommunications infrastructure in the region.” WiredWest will apply the grant funds toward completion of an engineering survey and cost estimates, procurement of vendors and professional services, a market survey, and purchase of mapping information for engineering purposes.

The MBI, a division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, was created when Governor Deval Patrick signed the Broadband Act into law in August 2008. The act gives the MBI the authority to invest up to $40 million of state bond funds in necessary and long-lived infrastructure assets, such as conduits, fiber-optic cable and wireless towers. In addition to the grant to WiredWest, the MBI also made grants for planning and deployment of wireless and fiber-to-the-curb networks.