(TNS) -- WESTBORO, Mass. -- Seven companies have submitted bids to run MassBroadband123, the state-owned fiber-optic network whose internet service to area police and government buildings has been imperiled in recent months by a legal battle involving the current operator.
"We are extremely pleased by the number of proposals (we) received and the overall qualifications of the organizations that responded," Tim Connelly, executive director and CEO of the Westboro-based Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, said in a statement Monday.
The collaborative, known as MassTech, oversees the Massachusetts Broadband Institute, which contracted the construction of a fiber-optic network in Western and Central Massachusetts in 2011 to provide high-speed internet to underserved areas. The project, financed with $90 million in federal and state grants, serves many local police and government buildings, but has been beset by legal difficulties for years.
The private company that runs the network declared bankruptcy in March, and its parent company, Axia NetMedia Corp. of Canada, is suing the state in U.S. District Court in Worcester in an attempt to have its contractual obligations voided.
During an initial hearing on that case, an attorney representing the state cast doubt on the long-term prospects of finding a replacement. However, a subsequent request for proposals drew 12 companies to an informational conference, seven of which have now placed bids.
A spokesman for MassTech said Monday the names of the companies are being kept private pending additional review by state officials.
"While our full review is in-progress, these initial responses show that there's solid interest in managing the network and continuing the delivery of these critical broadband connections to Western and North-Central Massachusetts," Mr. Connelly said.
There is no guarantee the state will need a new vendor, and it has stated publicly that it is trying to work on an "equitable long-term solution" with Axia. But should that effort fail, it would need a separate vendor to step in quickly.
The state scored a victory against Axia late last month, when a federal judge in Worcester ordered Axia to continue fulfilling its network obligations until at least May 8. That ruling – a temporary restraining order – has since been extended to May 18 while the judge decides whether to grant the state a similar order that would last until the litigation is resolved.
©2017 Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.