Greenwood selectmen have had to reboot their plan for extending Internet service to the town’s Highway Department garage.

Town Manager Kim Sparks said such service is badly needed.

In a grant application last year, she wrote: “Our Highway Department along with our Greenwood Road residents have been in desperate need of Internet service for years. The Highway Department would utilize Internet service primarily to receive current weather updates, to monitor storms, for online training, and to receive immediate updates from Oxford County Emergency Management and the National Weather Service.

“Having Internet service at our Highway Department facility will inform our highway crew immediately of any emergency or threatening storm. This will help increase our emergency response times and keep our residents safe.”

Internet would also be significantly less expensive than the unreliable satellite service the Highway Department currently uses to monitor weather, she said.

The grant application was successful. In November the selectmen learned the town had been awarded $5,000 to run a “lateral” line from the high speed Three Ring Binder line that was due to be extended north along the Greenwood Road, into Locke Mills and points beyond.

The Three Ring Binder is 1,100 miles of high-capacity fiber optic line (or “dark fiber”) running through 100 rural Maine communities.

Proposed and designed by a group that included the University of Maine and GWI, the Three Ring Binder was intended to bolster the Internet backbone in rural Maine.

But, Sparks said, in many rural areas the potential customer base for high-speed Internet is too small to be attractive to Internet Service Providers (ISPs), who would be needed to provide the “last mile” conection between the Three-Ring Binder line and individual homes and businesses.

The developers, Sparks said last week, “didn’t do their homework on who’s going to ‘light’ it.”

All of ISPs active in this area were contacted, she said, and GWI was the only one willing to light Greenwood’s wire.

But GWI “wanted an enormous amount of money.”

At last week’s selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Amy Chapman summed the situation up.

“When we heard about the grant, we applied for it and got it, but now we’ve got to pay for [extending Internet to the Highway Department], because no one will light the wire.

“It’s very frustrating. We were awarded a grant that’s useless.”

So Sparks and the selectmen have had to come up with an alternative plan: to have three miles of dark fiber run from the fire station, which has Time Warner service, to the highway garage.

Maine Fiber has agreed to run line.

In return the town will pay Maine Fiber $3,500, and then begin paying Time Warner for two connections.

But so far the selectmen have been hesitant about signing the contract.

“It has a lot of legal jargon in it that they’re not sure they understand,” Sparks said.

At last week’s meeting Selectman Arnie Jordan said: “There’s so much mumbo-jumbo in there. Before I sign it, I want someone to explain it to me in layman’s terms.

“They can slip a lot of things by you before you realize it. You sign it and then you’re hooked.”

The selectmen were also concerned that the contract calls for the town to pay the crew’s workers compensation.

“We have to pay workers comp for the fiber crew. I don’t see why we would do that,” Jordan said. “As I read it all they do is string the wire.”

But an attorney has reviewed the proposed contract, Sparks said, and after some discussions with the attorney for Maine Fiber “is comfortable with it.”

A representative of the company is scheduled to meet with the selectmen at their June 19 meeting to discuss the contract.


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