Communities forge ahead with their own broadband initiatives

Continued impatience about when--or if--traditional service providers will start offering ubiquitous broadband connectivity has led state and local governments to take their own steps forward. Oklahoma, for example, will institute a program that expands rural access, and Leverett, Mass., plans to hire a contractor to build a fiber optic network. In each instance, public money is being used to build necessary facilities.

Oklahoma is using a $74 million grant from NTIA to build out the Oklahoma Community Anchor Network (OCAN) to cover schools, hospitals and tribes throughout the state. The project is running under the joint auspices of the state's Office of Management and Enterprise Services, Department of Transportation and State Regents for Higher Education's OneNet Division, a telecommunications network for government and education.

The 1,005-route mile network, which is expected to go online Aug. 1, covers 35 counties and includes 33 "community anchors" with plans to partner with local telecom companies operating in rural communities.

However it's accomplished, Rep. Todd Thomsen told The Ada News that it will provide better connectivity and that "will always improve the way people function."

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, town selectboard members have awarded New Jersey contractor Millennium Communications Group a $2.27 million contract to build and maintain a fiber optic network that board member Peter d'Errico said is "comparable service to what Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is providing in Kansas City."

The goal, he said in a story carried by The Recorder of Greenfield, Mass., is to make Leverett "a desirable place for all kinds of people who work in mediums that require that level of technology."

Ninety percent of voters at a town meeting approved spending $3.6 million for the project, which, d'Errico said, will give Leverett a "state-of-the-art worldwide telecommunications capability."

The network, which is expected to be completed by December 2014, will connect to the Massachusetts Broadband Initiative's middle mile network.

"I see it as having economic benefits for the town, cultural benefits for the town, and when you add in things like telemedicine, it means that it's more than lifestyle; it's quality of life," d'Errico said.

For more:
- The Ada News has this story
- and The Recorder has this report

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