DIXFIELD — Selectmen recently discussed goals for improving internet service in town, including everyone having access to high-speed internet, residents understanding the benefits of that service, and businesses and the village area having better access at an affordable rate.
Mia Purcell, economic development manager for Community Concepts Finance Corp., said Maine West was formed by the Betterment Fund to improve the quality of life in the River Valley, Bethel area and Oxford Hills region.
Maine West applied for a planning grant in partnership with Axiom Technologies that was funded by the ConnectME Authority in spring 2017. The goal is to position communities across Western Maine to secure resources and capacity to expand local access and get broadband internet access.
“Broadband is one of the projects we’ve decided to focus on,” Purcell said.
The term broadband commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than the traditional dial-up access. Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies such as digital subscriber line cable modem.
Selectman Gene Skibitsky suggested having some Wi-Fi hot spots around town for tourists. There is one at Towle’s Corner Store, he said.
Purcell said Wi-Fi hot spots could get motorists to stop, particularly if it’s advertised.
Skibitsky said a great place for a Wi-Fi hot spot would be at the Village Green.
“And I’d like to see an attempt to lower the cost of broadband through competition,” he said. “I don’t know how we’d do it. The more providers, the more competition.”
Purcell said the only alternatives are FairPoint Communications and Spectrum.
She said the goal is to move away if possible from digital subscriber line, but fiber optics are expensive.
Purcell said an online survey to residents and businesses brought more than 350 responses, including 60 area businesses. Among the highlights from residents were:
• More than 70 percent said they were unhappy with their current service because it was slow, unreliable and too expensive;
• Sixty percent said they were not interested in paying more money for their service;
• Fifty percent said they either had children and/or adults in their household who needed to use the internet for homework or educational purposes; and
• Ninety percent of businesses said that internet service was very important to them; 70 percent noted that improved internet service was critically important to them.