Tilson Guides Mass Broadband 123, Bringing Critical Broadband Access to Western Massachusetts

In 2008, 95 communities in Western Massachusetts had limited or no access to broadband communications. More than 220,000 households, 25,000 businesses, anchor institutions such as libraries and hospitals, and 1,200 public safety and other state facilities were on the disadvantaged side of the digital divide. Without high speed communications, businesses couldn’t compete regionally and globally, citizens had restricted access to e-healthcare, and the quality of education suffered.


The situation began to change when the Congress passed the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) in 2009, and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick created the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which was soon tasked with building a 1,300-mile fiber optic network that would give rural Massachusetts an on-ramp to the information superhighway.

The Institute had the funding and a committee of telecom industry experts overseeing the future of broadband connectivity for rural Massachusetts. What they needed was a company that could plan and manage the massive, and massively important, middle mile network build-out.


Tilson bid on and was awarded the project, serving as the owner’s project manager and consulting engineer. Tilson took on the strategic planning, route design, business modeling, cost estimation, test and acceptance procedure design and intergovernmental coordination between the Department of Transportation, public safety agencies and industry, as well as the construction management services. To give you some idea of the scale, they developed a comprehensive construction cost estimate for the design/build requirements, licensing and “make ready” efforts for over 20,000 Verizon, Western Mass Electric Company, National Grid, Unitil, and municipal light district owned utility poles.

Rounding out the solution, Tilson network engineers developed next-generation interoperability and design standards for the fiber optic DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing), data routing, voice transport, and switching facilities that control the network.

MassBroadband 123 now connects more than 120 western and central Massachusetts communities, exceeding the original scope of the initiative, and enhancing the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

20,000 Utility Poles and Counting

Every project has milestones, one of which happened in September 2012, when Crocker Communications and Health New England became the first customers for the MassBroadband 123 network. Since then, Massachusetts has been recognized as a leading broadband state in a national study, several “last mile” projects were started to make the link between the middle mile and people, anchor institutions and businesses. MassBroadband 123 now connects more than 120 western and central Massachusetts communities, exceeding the original scope of the initiative, and enhancing the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people.

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