Easthampton gets grant for fiber network connecting government services 

  • Easthampton Municipal Building GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2022 6:46:09 PM
Modified: 6/9/2022 6:44:02 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Over the next year, the city intends to construct a dedicated fiber network that will connect all city buildings with each other and with a backup location in a move officials say will increase the security and resilience of its network infrastructure.

The project is being funded by a $250,000 grant awarded to the city by the state’s Municipal Fiber Grant Program. The grant was announced at a ceremony last week in Taunton, where Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito recognized the city as a recipient. Easthampton Information Technology Department Director Karin Moyano Camihort attended the ceremony.

“The grant will allow the city to strengthen its network resilience by building new fiber connectivity,” Moyano Camihort said. “With the growing number of cybersecurity attacks, it is imperative for Easthampton to develop an enterprise approach to its network monitoring, backup, and recovery practices.”

The purpose of the project is to increase the security and resilience of the city’s municipal fiber infrastructure by adding a dedicated government network. For example, if a pole comes down or cables are damaged after a storm and the city’s internet connection fails, Moyano Camihort said the city will have an alternative path to stay connected and access its data and backups.

“The pandemic firmly confirmed what we suspected to be true. Our cybersecurity and resilience was subpar, leaving resident services and city operations vulnerable. This grant addresses many gaps,” Mayor Nicole LaChapelle said in a statement.

The city is one of 86 municipalities and school districts to receive funding in the inaugural round of the Community Compact Cabinet’s Municipal Fiber Program. The state’s Community Compact Cabinet was created by executive order signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in 2015 to develop best practices for municipalities in collaboration with cities and towns.  

Northampton and Amherst also received grant funding from the program. Northampton was awarded $250,000 for the expansion of its existing fiber infrastructure and Amherst was awarded $295,925 to extend its existing municipal fiber network to provide connectivity for Amherst’s and Pelham’s municipal facilities and other assets.

For Amherst and Pelham, there will be both cost savings, of around $30,000 per year, and improved technology at sites including the Centennial Water Treatment Plant and a public safety radio tower, as well as the Pelham Elementary School and its Town Hall, public safety complex and library, where centralized IT services will be available.

“This project will enhance our existing investments to significantly save money and improve services for years to come in Amherst and Pelham,” IT Director Sean Hannon said in a statement.

The project will also replace soon-to-be obsolete public safety technology, reducing potential downtime of this critical service, and improve network privacy and security, cutting down on cybersecurity threats. 

All municipalities are eligible to apply for grant funding from the program.

With the funding, Easthampton has one year to complete this project, which includes pole applications, fiber cables and labor, according to Moyano Camihort.

As a grant recipient, the city is provided with licenses for end-user training, assessment and phishing simulation, procured and managed by the state’s executive office of Technology Services and Security. City employees have been undergoing network training as part of a state grant from the Municipal Cybersecurity Awareness Program.

Through comprehensive online end-user training, evaluation and threat simulation, Moyano Camihort said the city will continue to improve its overall cybersecurity posture.

“Strengthening our cybersecurity posture is never a finished job,” she said. “As attacks increase in number and sophistication, we must upgrade and improve our efforts.”


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