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Mass. getting $145 million in federal funds to boost broadband access

Markey, pictured during a Senate Foreign Relations committee hearing in April, plugged the new federal broadband funds for Mass. on Thursday.Al Drago/Associated Press

Massachusetts is receiving $145 million to bring broadband access to parts of the state that currently lack high-speed Internet connections, officials said Thursday.

“We can still see the holes [in access] out in the Berkshires, which is rural,” said US Senator Ed Markey, a Malden Democrat, during a remote briefing Thursday with congressional colleagues and federal treasury officials to announce the broadband outlay from the American Rescue Plan.

People of color, immigrant communities, and small businesses in the state have also had difficulty accessing broadband, Markey said.

“Massachusetts is getting $145 million,” he said. “It’s going to help serve 16,000 locations in Massachusetts. It’s going to bring high-speed Internet to thousands of Massachusetts households, especially those who are in communities of color.”

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Expanding broadband access, Markey said, has long been a pressing need for the country.

“And the Biden administration is responding,” Markey said. “ .... This is a turning point. Not only do we need a CHIPS Act and a science act, but we also need to make sure that then everyone is connected to this world, which is unfurling at lightning speed in our economy and our society.”

Markey’s office said Thursday that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute is mapping the state to determine which areas count as “unserved” and will be eligible to receive federal grants.

A fact sheet on the program provided by the US Treasury Department said the plan for Massachusetts, approved Thursday, represents 83 percent of the state’s total allocation under the rescue plan’s capital projects program.

“As reported by Massachusetts, estimates show that investments made using the Capital Projects Fund will serve 27% of locations still lacking high-speed internet access in the state,” the sheet said.

And more cash is coming, Markey told reporters Thursday.

“On top of this, there’s $65 billion in the broadband infrastructure funding bill, in the bipartisan infrastructure law,” Markey said. “We’re not even talking about that today. That will add [an] additional hundreds of millions of dollars in additional broadband funding for Massachusetts alone.”

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The lawmakers who joined Markey at the briefing included Senator Debbie Stabenow and Representative Dan Kildee, both Michigan Democrats, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin.

“The COVID-19 crisis changed how we worked and learned, making us even more reliable on the internet,” Stabenow said in a statement. “In Michigan, many families were left behind because too many of our rural and low income communities did not have high-speed internet. Today’s investment will connect 67,857 Michigan households and businesses.”

Baldwin also voiced excitement over the funding.

“This investment from the Biden Administration will help us deliver reliable high-speed broadband so all Wisconsinites can get the telehealth they need, work from home, and participate in remote learning, all while creating good-paying jobs along the way,” Baldwin said in a statement.

Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.


Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.