Haverhill Commits to ‘Bridging the Digital Divide’ with Fiber Optic Internet Study Investment

(File photograph.)

The Haverhill City Council has taken the first step toward bridging the digital divide.

Councilors Tuesday voted to allocate $20,000 to investigate the feasibility of bringing high quality internet access to all corners of the city.

Citing a recent report from Tufts University, Councilor John A. Michitson told the committee that disparities in digital access have been laid bare as a result of COVID-19, particularly in the realm of education. That report stated 160,000 residents of Essex County lack access to reliable, high speed internet service and, not surprisingly, that a large number of those residents are economically disadvantaged. He offered this idea as a potential first step in closing that gap.

“The key to success is going to be funding the initial installation of the fiber network and one possibility there is to start off with a pilot and I think the Mount Washington neighborhood and maybe the Acre neighborhood as well would be a couple of places where we could start attacking the digital divide right from the get go,” said Michitson.

After the council voted unanimously to pass the order, Mayor James J. Fiorentini said there is still a way to go.

“The next step for me is going to be to appoint a broadband advisory committee. I’ve already invited Councilor Michitson to be on it and council president, Councilor Barrett. I’m going to appoint several members who have been on the Cable TV Advisory Committee. This is not going to be easy. We’ll take a chance and see if we can succeed,” the mayor said.

Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua pointed out that now is an excellent time to move ahead with this project as the state has recently announced that it will be making funding available through the Economic Development Administration.

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