Westport Island selectmen

Survey: Westport Island wants better internet, if price right

Property owners with homestead exemptions have checks coming
Tue, 11/17/2020 - 8:45am

    Westport Island property owners who answered a survey are mostly unhappy with their internet service, Al Doman of the town’s broadband committee told selectmen Monday night.

    Results Doman reviewed and Town Clerk Julie Casson provided at Wiscasset Newspaper’s request read in part: “Respondents were overwhelmingly in favor of any course of action that would make reliable broadband internet available… at reasonable cost.” 

    The committee surveyed 500 addresses by mail and got 158 responses; 64% are unhappy with service, with complaints such as too slow, unreliable, costs too much, or is not available; 86% favor expanding Spectrum service and 78% support a town-owned fiber-optic network.

    First Selectman George Richardson asked how much it would cost for broadband access to go island-wide. Spectrum’s initial offer, “which we have many questions about still,” is about $630,000 to do the rest of the island, Doman said. A ConnectME grant may he sought, the committee’s materials note.

    “So if Spectrum doesn’t negotiate and they drop out, what would it cost to do the whole island,” Richardson followed up. Doman said a town-owned, town-wide network could run $2 million. The committee is monitoring a possible third option, Starlink, working to serve Canada and the northeastern U.S., according to the committee. “Starlink has come up with 150 megabytes per second on their initial testing (and is) apparently on schedule ... On the negative side, for ... beta testing, they’re charging $99 a month and $499 for a satellite receiver,” but the post-beta testing costs could be less, Doman said. He and Richardson wondered how a satellite system would fare in a Maine winter.

    Also in the board’s UberConference call, Richardson announced, each property owner with a homestead exemption will get a $40.50 check. The state’s $5,000 increase to the exemption on assessments had not been entered into the town’s software, he explained. “I accept responsibility for this oversight and apologize for this error.” The town will issue about 212 checks, totaling $8,856, Richardson said.