Friday, October 7, 2022

CommonWealth Magazine: ARPA funding for broadband expansion approved; is DPU proper agency for MBTA oversight; Sommerville's new municipal aggregation contract offers hope

"Massachusetts gets $145 million to expand broadband  
ARPA funding approved by White House"
"MASSACHUSETTS HAS BEEN awarded $145 million in federal money to expand broadband internet access, the White House announced Thursday. 

Jacob Leibenluft, US Treasury Chief Recovery Officer, said in a conference call with reporters that an estimated 16,000 Massachusetts locations, homes and businesses, will be connected to high-speed internet through these initiatives. That represents 27 percent of those in Massachusetts who still lack high-speed internet.  

Sen. Ed Markey, a longtime leader in Congress on telecommunications, said it is a “national tragedy” that people still lack access to high-speed internet, given how important connectivity is to modern life. “Massachusetts has cutting edge technological innovations, but we can still see the holes in the Berkshires, which is rural,” Markey said. “Black, brown, and immigrant families, they are left behind.” 

The money was allocated through the American Rescue Plan Act, part of a $10 billion Capital Projects Fund. The fund was intended to pay for projects that provide digital connectivity for people to participate in remote work, education, and health care, with a focus on broadband. "
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Lawmakers question whether DPU is right for MBTA safety oversight
Agency officials blame most problems on difficulties in hiring

"TWO KEY Beacon Hill lawmakers on Thursday questioned whether the Department of Public Utilities is the right agency to hold the MBTA’s feet to the fire on safety issues.

At a legislative oversight hearing, the chair of the DPU and the head of the agency’s transportation oversight division acknowledged the arm of the agency that oversees the MBTA’s safety efforts is understaffed and has been understaffed for years.

The DPU, an agency known mostly for overseeing electric and gas utilities, is currently trying to double the size of the transportation division to roughly 14 people, and may need more employees. The Federal Transit Administration, in a recent safety inspection report, criticized the MBTA and the DPU’s transportation division.

“The division seems stuck,” said Sen. Michael Barrett of Lexington. “Safety seems to have been submerged, seriously, within the DPU.”
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"Somerville’s new electricity contract offers some hope"
(for those residents using municipal aggregation)
"SOMERVILLE THIS WEEK offered some hope to those worried about the high cost of electricity ever since National Grid said its basic service rate would be jumping to a record 33.9 cents per kilowatt hour on November 1.

The city said it signed a contract starting November 1 with Direct Energy that will provide electricity to residents at a much lower price — 14.9 cents a kilowatt hour for basic service, 15.7 cents a kilowatt hour for power with 20 percent more renewable energy, and 18.6 cents a kilowatt hour for all-renewable electricity.

Somerville’s contract will last two years, while National Grid’s rate will remain in place for only six months. A lot can happen over the next two years in energy markets, so locking a price in for that length of time carries some risk. But Somerville’s new rates suggest municipalities and individuals may be able to find some relief for soaring electricity prices by shopping around."
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Franklin's Municipal aggregation information

Franklin's Municipal Aggregation program
Franklin's Municipal Aggregation program

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