FARMINGTON — Franklin County commissioners voted Tuesday to send a letter of support for the Opportunity Center of North Franklin County Inc., which intends to apply for a planning grant to improve access to high-speed internet service.
Commissioners asked county Clerk Julie Magoon to write the letter.
The center is working with Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee, Greater Franklin Development Council and Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments to increase access to broadband in Franklin County, plus Livermore Falls, said Charlie Woodworth of Freeman Township.
The intention is to apply for a ConnectME Community Broadband Planning Grant.
Woodworth and fellow member Bob Carlton, also of Freeman Township, gave an overview of the local effort to commissioners Tuesday.
Meetings on the issue have been held well attended, Carlton said.
The next one is at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 29, at the Phillips Area Community Center on Depot Street in Phillips.
Among the benefits is enabling employees to work from home and taking online college courses. In regards to telehealth medical assistance, it would also increase access to and quality of health care in rural communities, according to a fact sheet.
Representatives are asking businesses, town officials, educational institutions, service organizations and others to send letters of support. They can also contact Woodworth at email@example.com to tell him why improved broadband is important to them.
The group is also encouraging people to complete a 2017 Franklin County Broadband Survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/FD8LF2T. It includes a link to www.speedtest.net so people can check their internet speed.
Those who would like a paper copy of the survey can contact AVCOG at 207-783-9186. There is also a video available that outlines the initiative in Maine to increase access to broadband statewide. It can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQ6LMaPmueY&feature=youtu.be.
Somerset County received a planning grant last year for $80,000, Woodworth said.
Somerset Economic Development Corp. and Kennebec Valley Council of Governments teamed up to apply for a planning grant and were successful, according to the center’s talking points. The group is working on its final report with findings and recommendations on areas of need and opportunity, according to the North Franklin County center’s information.
They hired consultants that assessed the availability and demand for broadband services throughout Somerset County. They now plan to pursue funding and providers to improve services in specific areas.
The group has shared their work with Franklin County.
There would be funds available to help Franklin County increase the infrastructure for high-speed internet if an amendment to Franklin County’s tax-increment financing agreement is approved by the state.
If the local group gets a grant, they would need a town official on a broadband committee, Carlton said. They are seeking proposals from a consultant to develop a cost for such a project so that it could be included in the planning grant application.
Charlie Woodworth, left, and Bob Carlton, both of Freeman Township and representatives of the Opportunity Center of North Franklin County Inc., explained to Franklin County commissioners Tuesday an initiative to increase access to high-speed internet in the county and Livermore Falls.