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General Laws

Section 6B. (a) As used in this section and in section 6C, the following words shall, unless the context clearly requires otherwise, have the following meanings:—

“Board”, the board of the Massachusetts Broadband Institute established by subsection (c).

“Broadband”, high-speed internet access, including wireless internet access, and as may be further defined by the board.

“Fund”, the Massachusetts Broadband Incentive Fund established by section 6C.

“Institute”, the Massachusetts Broadband Institute established by subsection (b).

(b) The corporation shall establish an institute for investment in broadband infrastructure in the commonwealth, to be known as the Massachusetts Broadband Institute. The executive director of the corporation, subject to the approval of the board, shall appoint a qualified individual as director to manage the affairs of the institute. The purpose of the institute shall be to achieve the deployment of affordable and ubiquitous broadband access across the commonwealth. The objectives of the institute shall include: (i) assessing and improving broadband access conditions in communities that have no access or have limited or insufficient access to broadband; (ii) promoting robust broadband access for essential state and local governmental services including, without limitation, public safety, health and education; (iii) promoting increased availability of, and competition for, broadband access and related services; and (iv) creating conditions that will encourage economic competitiveness and growth. The first priority of the institute shall be to assess and improve conditions in the commonwealth’s communities that have no broadband access.

(c) The institute shall be governed and its corporate powers exercised by a board of directors, which shall consist of the following 9 members: the secretary of administration and finance or his designee; the secretary of housing and economic development, who shall serve as chair; the commissioner of telecommunications and cable or his designee; the executive director of the corporation or his designee; and the chairman of the governing board of the John Adams Innovation Institute or his designee; and 4 members to be appointed by the governor, all of whom shall have knowledge and experience in 1 or more of the following areas: telecommunications, broadband infrastructure, public-private partnership development, information technology or other fields of experience consistent with the mission of the institute. Each member appointed by the governor shall serve a term of 4 years and thereafter until his successor is appointed. Any person appointed to fill a vacancy on the board shall be appointed in a like manner and shall serve for only the unexpired term of such member. Any appointed member shall be eligible for reappointment. An appointed member may be removed by the governor for cause. Five members of the board shall constitute a quorum, and the affirmative vote of a majority of the members present and eligible to vote at a meeting shall be necessary for any action to be taken by the board. The members shall serve without compensation, but each member shall be entitled to reimbursement for actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of his official duties. The board shall meet at least 4 times annually.

(d) The board shall leverage private sector and federal investment by financing the construction and acquisition of broadband infrastructure to promote the development of broadband access. This broadband infrastructure shall include, but not be limited to, conduit, fiber and towers. Any equipment or other property financed or acquired by the institute shall be owned by the corporation, the commonwealth or 1 or more other public entities, but may be leased or licensed by the institute, for a fee or otherwise, for use by nonprofit or for-profit private-sector entities; provided, however, that acquisition of (i) an indefeasible right of use of facilities used for the transmission of intelligence by electricity for a period of not less than 20 years or for such lesser term and subject to such other conditions as the board may determine to be appropriate to protect the public interest; or (ii) a license or other agreement to use electromagnetic spectrum licensed by the federal government shall be considered to be acquisition of an ownership interest in broadband infrastructure. Any such transaction shall constitute a transaction with the commonwealth for the purpose of chapter 30B. The lessee or licensee shall pay any lease or license fees to the corporation, which shall credit them to the fund. The institute may provide and pay for advisory services and technical assistance as may be necessary or desired to carry out its purposes.

The board may work in collaboration with the corporation and other quasi-public and nonprofit entities and state agencies, and may provide advisory assistance to local entities, local authorities, public bodies and private corporations for the purposes of maximizing opportunities for the expansion of broadband access in the commonwealth and fostering innovative approaches to broadband access in the commonwealth.

Notwithstanding any general or special law or rule or regulation to the contrary, the department of highways may lease or license for a term not to exceed 25 years any interest in real property deemed appropriate by the corporation and the commissioner of highways to promote the objectives of this chapter. The nature and extent of such interest shall be transferred on such terms and conditions as the commissioner of highways may determine. The terms and conditions of any conveyance executed pursuant to this subsection shall be approved by the commissioner of capital asset management, in consultation with the inspector general and the secretary of transportation. Any interest acquired by the corporation may be transferred, leased or licensed by the corporation for use by public entities or nonprofit or for-profit private sector entities subject to the approval of the commissioner of highways and subject to this section including, without limitation, such right of reverter at the expiration of the term. The corporation shall lease or license any such interest using such competitive processes and procedures as may be reviewed and approved by the inspector general. Notice that such interest is available for lease or license shall be publicly advertised in 2 daily newspapers of general circulation published in the city of Boston and, if such real property is located in any other city or town, in a newspaper of general circulation published in such other city or town, once a week for 2 successive weeks. Such advertisements shall state the availability of such interest, the nature of the competitive process and other information deemed relevant, including the time and place where all pertinent information relative to the interest to be leased or licensed may be obtained, the criteria for selection of a successful proponent, and the time, place and manner for the submission of bids, proposals and the opening thereof. The consideration for any such interest shall be within the estimated range of the fair market value of the interest as determined by the corporation based upon an independent professional appraisal. Any such interest conveyed by the department of highways shall revert to the commonwealth at the expiration of any such term.

The corporation may exercise any of its powers to assist or enable the institute to fulfill its purposes as set forth in this section, including without limitation the powers set forth in clause (e) of section 4, and such purposes are hereby deemed and held to be purposes of the corporation. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, the corporation shall have the power to develop, lease or otherwise acquire, own, hold, dispose of and encumber conduit, fiber, towers and other real and personal property related to broadband infrastructure that shall be necessary or convenient to the fulfillment of such purposes. The exercise by the corporation of any such powers shall be deemed and held to be an essential governmental function.

(e) The board shall collect information from reasonably available sources including, but not limited to: municipalities and other public entities and agencies of the commonwealth, local and regional nonprofit entities and telecommunications and broadband service providers to develop and maintain an inventory of: (i) locations where telecommunications and broadband services are not available in the commonwealth; (ii) locations where telecommunications and broadband infrastructure is available or is likely to be available to support the provision of services to unserved and underserved areas; (iii) locations where new infrastructure may be necessary to support the provision of services to unserved and underserved areas; (iv) the quality of such services, including, but not limited to, speed of data transmission and cost of such services; and (v) any other relevant information as the board may deem necessary.

(f) The board shall establish a detailed long-term plan for the operation of the institute and the administration of the fund and shall consult with the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy and the joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies on the plan. The plan, and any amendments thereto, shall be subject to the approval of the secretary of housing and economic development and the secretary of administration and finance and shall be filed with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the same to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy and the joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies.

(g) The board shall annually adopt an operating plan governing disbursements from the fund and, to the extent the plan provides for disbursement of appropriations or other moneys authorized by the general court, the plan shall be subject to the approval of the secretary of housing and economic development and the secretary of administration and finance. The board shall file the plan, and any amendments thereto, with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the same to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy and the joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies.

(h) The board shall promulgate rules and regulations for the administration and enforcement of this section and section 6C.

(i) The board shall review and recommend changes in laws, rules, programs and policies of the commonwealth and its agencies and subdivisions to further financing, infrastructure and development for broadband access in the commonwealth.

(j) The board shall prepare, publish and distribute, with or without charge, as the institute may determine, any studies, reports and bulletins and other material as the institute deems appropriate.

(k) The institute shall file an annual report of its activities with the governor and the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the same to the joint committee on telecommunications, utilities and energy, the joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies, and the house and senate committees on ways and means.

(l) Actions of the board may take effect immediately and notice thereof shall be published and posted. Meetings of the board shall be subject to section 11A1/2 of chapter 30A. Records pertaining to the activities of the institute shall be subject to section 10 of chapter 66, unless exempted under subsection (h) of section 12. The operations of the institute shall be subject to chapters 268A and 268B; provided, however, that the members of the board shall be considered directors for the purposes of the fourth, fifth and seventh paragraphs of section 3.

(m) Sections 38A1/2 to 38O, inclusive, of chapter 7, section 39M of chapter 30, subject to the provisions of subsection (c) of section 4A and sections 44A to 44J, inclusive, of chapter 149 shall apply to the operations of the institute.

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