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County Residents Encouraged to Test Home Internet Capability
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:19AM / Wednesday, June 26, 2024
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Berkshire County residents have until July 20 to challenge the federal government's assessment of broadband availability at their home.
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is the local authority providing access to the Broadband Equity and Deployment initiative, a federal program for funding Internet infrastructure.
BEAD, as the program is known, allows individuals to test the available Internet speed where they live in order to ensure that availability is properly tracked by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
"The Challenge Process is a crucial step to ensure the accuracy of Internet availability data and maps for the Massachusetts Broadband Institute to deploy funding to expand broadband access across the state," according to the MBI website. "Your participation can help provide a precise picture of broadband needs in Massachusetts."
On Monday, Town Manager Robert Menicocci noted the BEAD Challenge during his report to the Select Board at its twice-monthly meeting.
"Everyone can put in their address and see if they concur with what the federal government is tracking for their availability of broadband," Menicocci said. "Here, I think we're pretty well covered, and it's pretty accurate. But each individual homeowner can go into this website and, to the extent they don't agree they have access for one reason or another, they can challenge that."
According to the MBI website, 2,401 of 2,417 "serviceable locations" in Williamstown are served by broadband, just more than 99 percent.
That is similar to most of the county with a few exceptions.
Savoy, which has just 385 serviceable locations, has none that are completely served and just 72 that are classified as underserved, leaving the majority, 81 percent, in the unserved category.
In Monroe, with 88 locations, 78 are unserved. Florida, with 404 locations, has more than half, 220, that are unserved. 
In South County, Monterey has 360 locations, or 39 percent of the town, that are underserved or unserved. In Mount Washington, with 167 locations, 165 are unserved and two are underserved.
"If anybody out there has concerns about what their access is or doesn't agree with what's being tracked at the federal level, they should definitely look it up," Menicocci said, referring to the BEAD website.
In terms of more traditional infrastructure, Williamstown is moving forward with several paving projects this summer, Menicocci told the board. A second course of paving is scheduled to be laid in early June on Moorland, School, Meacham and Park Streets, and Whitman Street, a late addition to the paving schedule, is on track for work this summer.
Prep work is underway for replacement of the Main Street bridge over Hemlock Brook, which will necessitate a closure during construction. Likewise, the more heavily traveled Main Street (Route 2) bridge over the Green River is scheduled for a closure around July 9 to accommodate concrete pouring, Menicocci told the Select Board. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has signage on Main Street alerting drivers to the pending temporary closure.
And the town completed an infrastructure upgrade to another of its assets with the installation of heat pumps at the David and Joyce Milne Public Library, Menicocci said.
The bad news is that the work was done during a recent heat wave, which limited the availability of air-conditioning in part of the building during installation, he said. The good news is that the upgrades make the library more efficient.
"This was an upgrade of what were the air-conditioners, but everything now is heat pumps that do heating and air-conditioning," he said. So this will add supplemental heating that is more friendly than fossil fuels we use in the boilers there. That's an extra added upgrade that we've done to the building.
"That should get us through, presumably, the remaining life of that building as we do planning for a new library someday."
In other business on Monday the Select Board:
Granted an all-liquor license to Gold Leaf package store on Main Street.
• Approved a change of manager and transfer of license for Pera Bistro on Spring Street, which now will do business as Plates Mediterranean Bistro.
• Discussed some of the members' preferences for a proposed new donation policy for the town.
 Finalized the board's most recent Article 37 report to be submitted to the town's Diversity, Improvement and Racial Equity Committee.
 Reappointed several members of town committees in terms set to expire on June 30.
• And heard a request from resident Paul Harsch that the Select Board should do a closer examination of whether the town should be supporting fireworks displays like that planned on July 4 in light of what he characterized as "terror of animals, people's pets and so forth" and the fact that "vast majority" of town residents don't attend the pyrotechnic displays.
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