Politics apparently tying up broadband access in Western Massachusetts

politics western massachusetts fiber optic mess optics google
It’s hard to participate in the 21st century economy without broadband access, but many rural Americans are stuck with dial-up, satellite, or DSL. It’s no small part of the migration of young people to cities.

If you want an idea as to why this is happening, consider the example of western Massachusetts, where politics are delaying a plan to bring fiber-optic connections to tens of thousands of residents. Susan Crawford wrote a Backchannel article last week outlining the problem, and it’s a story of never-ending delay.

In 2009, the state used some stimulus money to set up a series of fiber-optic cables in the western part of the state through an effort called MassBroadband 123. This network is a backbone of fiber connecting the region, but does not reach the “last mile” to individual houses and businesses. Cities are responsible for setting that up, whether by contracting with an ISP or building their own offering.

Forty-five towns are working together to get this done as a co-op called Wired West. By working together, the towns aim to reduce costs overall and offer fiber Internet to residents. For a long time, it looked like this plan would go forward, but it’s now being held up by the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI), which tabled any decision on the project.

“The current draft WiredWest operating agreement is not compatible with the best interests of the Commonwealth, the towns, or their residents,” said an MBI report on the project. MBI currently has no other plans on the table.

WiredWest has been working on its plans since 2010, when they were formed, and seemed on track to get the job done. But since Republican Charlie Baker won the governership of the state in 2015, progress has stalled. Eric Nakajima, who took over MBI after the election, said there are flaws in WiredWest’s business model, and has stated a preference for individual towns working alone. Consultants hired by the state agree with this assessment; consultants hired by WiredWest do not.

It’s a lot to parse, and if you’re interested, you should really read the full report from Harvard on the situation. It’s a great example of the sort of politics that keep America’s rural residents from really taking advantage of the broadband many of us take for granted.

Movies & TV

The best shows on Netflix, from 'Haunting of Hill House’ to ‘Twilight Zone’

Looking for a new show to binge? Lucky for you, we've curated a list of the best shows on Netflix, whether you're a fan of outlandish anime, dramatic period pieces, or shows that leave you questioning what lies beyond.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to endangered cats

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this winter with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Killing Eve'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Computing

From beautiful to downright weird, check out these great dual monitor wallpapers

Multitasking with two monitors doesn't necessarily mean you need to split your screens with two separate wallpapers. From beautiful to downright weird, here are our top sites for finding the best dual monitor wallpapers for you.
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, and it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Computing

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX331UA -- will get the job done without digging too deeply into your pockets.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

Vanquish lag for good with the best routers for gaming

Finding the best routers for gaming is no easy task. With so many out there, how do you know which to pick? We've looked at the many options available and put together a list of our lag-free favorites.
Computing

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?
Deals

These Raspberry Pi 3 bundles will cover everyone, from coders to gamers

The Raspberry Pi 3 is a low-budget computing platform capable of doing just about anything. We rounded up a handful of the best Raspberry Pi 3 bundles to get you started on a variety of DIY projects.
Computing

5 reasons your Macbook keeps restarting and how to fix the issue

It can be frustrating when your Apple MacBook keeps restarting, but this serious problem can be fixed! We'll go over the common causes for this issue, what you can do to fix them, and why it's okay to take your Mac to a pro!
Product Review

How does the sleek MateBook X Pro hold up to the modern day competition?

Huawei impressed us with the MateBook X, a solid competitor to the 12-inch MacBook that beat Apple at its own game. Now, Huawei is taking a shot at premium 14-inchers with the MateBook X Pro, but it’s not without oddities – like a…
Product Review

Why spend more? The Yoga Chromebook outdoes most laptops for $600

The Yoga Chromebook features great build quality, a 1080p display, and all-day battery life. All that for $540? That’s right, but there’s one catch.