Senators secure $10M boost for rural cell service

Staff Writer
Published: 7/5/2020 6:42:57 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Massachusetts Senate has adopted an amendment from two local state senators that would authorize $10 million in bonding for improved cellphone service in rural parts of the state.

Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, said cellphones have become a primary form of communication for many, play a key role in safety, and are often the way people are accessing the internet.

“The sustainability of some of our small towns is at stake,” he said.

Hinds worked alongside Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, to get the amendment included in the $1.7 billion General Government Bond Bill passed by the Senate on July 2.

“I was thrilled to work with Sen. Adam Hinds to advance the promise of regional equity today by securing a $10 million authorization for improved cell service in rural areas,” said Comerford in a release.“In a post-COVID world mandating more remote work than we have ever seen before, we simply can’t expect western Mass. residents to compete with one hand tied behind our backs.”

Hinds represents the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden District, while Comerford represents the Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester District, two of the most rural Senate districts in all of Massachusetts.

In the joint statement, Hinds said, “There is no reason in 2020 ... that so much of our state struggles to get cell phone reception, especially in our rural counties.

“Poor cellphone reception results in serious safety concerns, reduced economic development and opportunity, and contributes to population decline.”

The Massachusetts House has passed a similar bond bill, and the two bills are set to be reconciled.

Hinds expressed confidence that the authorization will be passed, after which he said that he and Sen. Comerford will work closely with the administration of Gov. Charlie Baker to create a program. The senator noted the administration’s previous work on the expansion of broadband service.

“I look forward to identifying how this program will be implemented,” he said.

While Hinds said that program details have not yet been worked out, he did note the need for mapping areas of cellphone coverage and that some towns have built cellphone towers and leased space on them to carriers.

Comerford told the Gazette that one of the mandates for those who represent her seat is to fight for regional equity.

“It was with this in mind that Adam and I teamed up,” she said.

Comerford also said that the western Massachusetts delegation has worked together effectively on such issues as rural schools and east-west rail.

“This is one more puzzle piece,” said the senator.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.




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