FARMINGTON – The ConnectME Authority recently awarded a $357,840 grant to Franklin Community Health Network for the construction of a fiber optic cable network that will connect three partnering medical centers and seven health care facilities in six towns across Franklin, Oxford and Androscoggin counties, providing high speed telehealth services. Called the Rural Western and Central Maine Broadband Initiative, it is a collaborative proposal spearheaded by FCHN and involving HealthReach Network Community Health Centers and Central Maine Healthcare, and will bring broadband access to health care providers and health care consumers in rural western and central Maine communities.

The ConnectME funds will provide the first year match requirement for a $3.6 million Federal Communications Commission Rural Health Care Pilot Project grant, which FCHN received in November 2007.

Initially, new fiber optic cable will be put in place at Franklin Memorial Hospital, Franklin Health Livermore Falls Family Practice, Bethel Area Health Center, Belgrade Regional Health Center, Western Maine Family Health Center in Livermore Falls, and Bridgton and Rumford Hospitals. The cable will then be extended to Strong Area Health Center, Mt. Abram Regional Health Center in Kingfield, and Rangeley Region Health Center in 2010.

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