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Baker pledges $50 million for Western Mass. broadband

Governor Charlie Baker said his administration would commit $50 million to expanding broadband in Western Massachusetts.

The governor said his administration would commit the funds from existing capital allocations to close "the digital divide" between Greater Boston and the western part of the state. According to Baker's office, 45 towns in Western Massachusetts don't have broadband and must rely on DSL or dial-up.

"Despite the current budget deficit, the Baker-Polito Administration remains committed to investing in our regional economies, and creating partnerships that empower communities to be great," said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash in a statement.

Baker's office said the funds would go to the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, a division of the quasi-public Massachusetts Technology Council. It's meant to "catalyze" projects by drawing municipal and private investment dollars.

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During the Patrick administration, the Broadband Institute spent $85 million to build a 1,200-mile "fiber backbone" through Western and Central Massachusetts to serve what were then 123 municipalities with no broadband service. In some of those cities, only a few buildings -- such as libraries -- were hooked up. Baker's office said that backbone, called MassBroadband 123, would play a part in expansions under the new initiative.


Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.