Broadband latest

Mon, 01/09/2023 - 8:45am
    Lincoln County Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Mary Ellen Barnes told Wiscasset’s broadband committee Jan. 5, applying without other towns would not hurt Wiscasset’s shot at Maine Connectivity Authority funds toward publicly owned broadband.
    Barnes said the Authority likes the municipally owned model. “If you’ve got this well-developed proposal, you’ve talked about it with the public, you’ve got some great public support, I think (the grant request is) not going to be disadvantaged if Consolidated (proposes a project) with six towns ... so I don’t think you should shy away from that,” if the committee and selectmen end up wanting to pursue that option, she said.
    Public versus provider-owned is still an open question, Committee Chair Carla Dickstein said. Wiscasset, Dresden and Woolwich have worked together to explore their options. Before asking Barnes for her take on Wiscasset’s chances alone, Dickstein said Dresden’s plan to go with Consolidated has weakened the competitiveness of a possible grant request for a public project because Dresden has so many unserved homes. After hearing from Barnes, she concurred about the Authority liking town-owned utilities and said, if it gets few such applications, “maybe we would be elevated even more ... Who knows?” And the Authority May revamp its scoring system, committee member Evan Goodkowsky said.
    Alone could turn out to be the only option for public ownership, according to the discussion at the town office and over Zoom. Woolwich Selectman Tommy Davis said Woolwich’s “whole (broadband) committee is very much in favor of the Consolidated path. The selectboard, some of them are ambivalent but I think they’re leaning toward the Consolidated path.”
    Davis said the “gut reaction” from Woolwich’s selectboard about a month ago was, municipally owned is too risky, so to try to go with Consolidated. “But I think generally the attitude is, ‘Let’s keep a toe in the water of the muni-owned path, just to see how everything shakes out.’
    “The appetite for the risk, in Woolwich, is low,” he reiterated.

    Wiscasset has been mulling owning a system – possibly with the other towns – and hiring a provider to run it, or partnering with a provider on a system the company would own. Said Dickstein, “It comes down really to how much the town (is) willing to spend and what risk they want to take.”

    The meeting came days after Wiscasset selectmen nodded a $10,000 grant from the Authority. According to Dickstein and Authority spokesman Brian Allenby in phone interviews, the “get ready” grants help towns progress toward applying for project grants, but do not obligate those towns to apply.
    Also Jan. 5, Barnes reported LCRPN is working to help Lincoln, Sagadahoc and Knox counties with digital inclusion, including digital literacy. “So we’re going to be working with towns, libraries, community centers, things like that, and really strengthening the local network around education,” she said.
    The committee is drafting a public versus private comparison and will seek to get on selectmen’s Jan. 17 agenda.