Press Release: 2024-02-22

Massachusetts Broadband Institute Expands Municipal Planning Program to 16 Additional Cities and Towns Statewide

78 Total Municipalities Are Enrolled in The Program with The Final Application Deadline on April 12th


Media Contact(s):                           

Jake Stern, MassTech

Public Relations Manager

C: (781) 801-8845


February 21, 2024

Source: Massachusetts Broadband Institute at MassTech (MBI)

WESTBOROUGH, MA – The Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) at MassTech has announced a third group of 16 cities and towns participating in the Commonwealth’s Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program. The program provides municipalities across the state with free strategic planning from pre-qualified consultants to help cities and towns determine the main impediments to internet access and help focus on solutions to bridge the existing digital divide, and tackle issues around affordability, digital literacy training, device access, and other barriers.

“Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in addressing the digital divide, empowering municipalities statewide with vital resources to enhance accessibility and education,” said Massachusetts Economic Development Secretary Yvonne Hao. “This program will enable more municipalities to empower their residents, providing not only internet access, but also with the necessary training, devices, and expertise to compete in the digital economy. As commerce, job opportunities, and essential resources shift online, ensuring robust connections is crucial for residents to excel now and in the future.”

“We want to congratulate the 16 cities and towns that have joined the program since last summer and spotlight their ongoing efforts to build more equitable communities,” said Michael Baldino, director of the MBI. “Alongside our planning partners, we are excited to provide these communities with the support to help connect with their residents, to ask the right questions, and to receive data-driven results that will enable them to get the right mix of support to their residents.”

With this announcement, the total amount of cities and towns participating in the program grows to 78 following the announcement of the second group of 27 municipalities in August 2023. The newest round includes four Gateway Cities - Attleboro, Fitchburg, Springfield, and Worcester - as well as 11 towns located in the Berkshires, Central Massachusetts, Cape Cod, Southeastern Massachusetts, and Western Massachusetts. A full list of the 16 towns and summaries of their projects are listed below.

The planning program gives municipalities the unique opportunity to work with a state-funded consultant on digital equity planning activities. The two options are a short term, ‘low barrier to entry’ process, and a comprehensive, longer term Digital Equity planning process. Additional information on these options is located on the MBI website.

The final deadline for cities and towns to submit to the Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program is on April 12th. Massachusetts cities and towns that are interested in joining the program may submit an application on MBI’s website at:

The “Act Relative to Immediate COVID-19 Recovery Needs” legislation created a Broadband Innovation Fund as part of the state’s response to COVID-19, which funded the Municipal Digital Equity Planning Program.

Over the past year, MBI has led several high-profile efforts to increase internet access and close the digital divide. Last summer, MBI launched a statewide series of listening sessions as part of their ‘Internet for All’ initiative. MBI met with community leaders, city officials, and residents in various communities to better understand barriers to internet access and ways to close digital equity gaps. In October, MBI launched their $145M Gap Networks Infrastructure Grant Program to address gaps in coverage in unserved and underserved areas across Massachusetts. Their deadline for the next round of awards is on April 17th. MBI has awarded a total of $34 million to boost digital equity as part of the Digital Equity Partnerships program, which supports organizations across the state implementing digital equity projects.


Project Summary


Ashburnham is creating a digital equity plan to better understand the needs of the town’s population. Given the town’s distance from urban centers and the high population working from home, expanding affordable, accessible internet access is a priority. Town staff will work with their pre-qualified consultant and hold meetings with the public to increase internet capacity in the community.


The Town of Ashby is focused on bridging digital equity gaps for seniors (which comprise 32 percent of the population) and impoverished youth, who lack the digital literacy training and resources to access the internet. Since the town conducts many of their functions online, it is critical that these populations have the skills and devices needed to fully participate in local government and seek crucial educational opportunities.


As a Gateway City, Attleboro has several barriers to widespread affordable, accessible internet access. The city has experienced a rise in housing costs and has a large population of low-income and non-native English speakers, who do not have the resources and access to the internet. As a result, the City of Attelboro is working to expand digital literacy courses, telehealth services, online employment, and language resources through surveys and working with the Attleboro Public Library, the Attleboro Council on Aging, and Attleboro Public Schools.


The Falmouth Broadband Municipal Light Plant (MLP) aims to connect every residence and business in the town. The planning process will help the town determine how access to internet resources can increase citizen productivity and minimize future impacts from events like the COVID 19 pandemic.

The MLP will also work with key stakeholders, such as non-profit organizations, faith groups, and social service providers, to increase digital access and availability. Ultimately, the MLP will aim to make more connections to their fiber-optic expand training opportunities, disseminate affordable modems and other equipment, and organize a group of volunteers to assist residents.


Fitchburg is putting together a Digital Equity Plan to reduce barriers primarily for students and other residents who lack digital literacy skills, including people with disabilities, senior citizens, and non-native English speakers. More than 57 percent of the community has residents who fall below the 80 percent area median income, so affordability continues to be a priority issue. The City is leading an inclusive process that involves many organizations including city services, community colleges, faith organizations, senior centers, and the public library. The City hopes their Digital Equity Plan will inform other upcoming city-wide plans, including a Housing Production Plan and a renewed Economic Development Plan. The municipality will work with key stakeholders, hold public meetings, and work alongside other public officials to support the program.


Through surveys and outreach events, Freetown will work to gather data about the various digital equity issues that are impacting the community. The Town recently received a grant to establish a fiber optic network at municipal facilities. Freetown is also looking to assist their growing elderly population as well as minority and low-income populations that are disproportionately impacted by the digital divide.


Over the past two years, Hampden has been gathering data to inform the implementation of a townwide fiber-optic network and received $250,000 from the Community Compact Program to expand fiber to municipal buildings. Now the town wants to understand where to focus equity efforts to better serve all residents and achieve a network ‘take rate’ of 60 percent of town residents.

Leverett (collaborating with the Town of Shutebury)

The Town of Leverett has built a municipal broadband network (LeverettNET) available to every resident and 95 percent of households are subscribed, a project funded with the support of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the MBI. The Town is investigating the other 5 percent of unsubscribed households to determine the barriers to connection (cost, training, devices etc). Since the Town does not have the resources to conduct a comprehensive digital equity needs assessment, they will use the support of this program to complete a report. The town will be collaborating with the Town of Shutebury.


Monterey is looking to bridge gaps in affordability and training on digital devices to increase the number of residents who are able to access the internet. The Town will use public meetings, surveys, interviews and data collection to understand the current gaps. They will work alongside several municipal and public entities to increase public internet access to rural areas, provide training and resources to seniors, low-income individuals and people with disabilities, expand access at the Monterey Library for residents and visitors, and increase telehealth opportunities, remote work options, and digital literacy programs.

New Marlborough

New Marlborough is intent on ensuring all members of the town have access to devices and education about how to use the internet. With a focus on digital inclusivity, the Town will use surveys, interviews, focus groups, and analytics to better understand the digital equity landscape in their community. Some goals include improving digital literacy, expanding public wifi, supporting historically marginalized populations, increasing economic opportunities, addressing digital safety, building more online support services, and engaging with the community.


Orleans will build partnerships with local organizations and public entities, target programs that focus on digital literacy, seek to increase high-speed internet to make it more accessible, and zone in on digital inclusion within the public school system.

Otis (collaborating with the towns of Beckett, Windsor, and Washington)

Through its Municipal Light Plant, Otis will spearhead several planning activities to expand and improve digital equity in the town. The municipality has previously installed a fiber-to-the-home network, but there are seniors and students unable to access it due to lack of training and equipment. In order to solve this, the Town will conduct outreach to residents who are not typically involved in public meetings or do not respond to surveys. Otis is also looking to execute a community plan that does not segregate by age to encourage group teaching of digital skills.

Shutesbury (collaborating with the Town of Leverett)

Shutesbury has reached a goal of providing active gigabit service to 90 percent of all households for only $60 a month. The Town is focused on connecting the last 10 percent of residents, by addressing affordability, helping their senior population with digital skills (especially when it comes to cybersecurity), getting connected to resources (such as the federal Affordable Connectivity Program), and to create, disseminate, and analyze surveys to reveal equity gaps.


Springfield is building on the work done by the Springfield City Council’s Digital Equity subcommittee and interest from residents. The City acknowledges several barriers to digital equity, including equitable access to devices and skills. They intend on using surveys, public meetings, and data collection, but also mailings, community events, tabling in public spaces, and interviews to uncover the reasons for these barriers. Working with consultants to build a digital equity plan, Springfield will seek to establish a coordinated, focused process.


In the Town of Westhampton’s 2022 master plan survey, they found that 92 percent of respondents noted the importance of reliable broadband for functioning city services (including emergency response) and to maintain the local economy. Westhampton is prioritizing reliable access to high-speed internet by working with service providers and the MBI to learn more about existing network availability and reliability. The Town will also focus on distributing devices, expanding literacy, and creating financial resources to help last mile neighborhoods and remote locations.


Worcester is currently working to bridge the digital divide by providing weekly digital literacy classes at the public library and spearheading efforts to enroll families in the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). While Worcester ranks high in ACP adoption rate, they are facing several other barriers that make it difficult for residents to access resources and use the internet successfully. The City will conduct surveys, collect data, engage with the community in public forums, collaborate with various stakeholders, expand digital literacy, and tackle affordability to foster digital inclusion citywide.


About the Massachusetts Broadband Institute 

A division of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute (MBI) is working to extend high-speed internet access and availability across the Commonwealth. To achieve this, the MBI utilizes state and federal funding to launch infrastructure expansion programs that target areas of the state which lack high-speed internet access, as well as digital equity programs which tackle barriers to internet adoption and increase availability, addressing critical issues around affordability, enhanced public Wi-Fi, the need for internet-enabled devices, and digital literacy training. Learn more at