PARIS — Bringing faster, more reliable internet access to Oxford County communities is the goal of a partnership that held a public forum Tuesday night.

The effort to expand broadband is being led by Community Concepts Finance Corp. and Maine West, a collaboration of local and regional organizations “dedicated to solving challenges related to the economic, education, health and conservation sectors,” said Mia Purcell, economic development manager at Community Concepts Finance Corp.

Purcell said that the meeting was meant to “educate residents and businesses on the current situation regarding internet access and usage in Oxford County.”

She said the two organizations have started the Maine West Broadband Accessibility Project, with the goal of ensuring that “communities have the reliable, next generation broadband and internet infrastructure needed for people and businesses to prosper now and into the future.”

The meeting will also serve as one of the initial steps required to apply for a grant aimed at providing funds to expand broadband availability in the Bethel area, River Valley and Oxford Hills, Purcell said.

“It’s hard to imagine a life without internet and broadband,” she said. “It connects young people to the world, attracts young families to live in the area, provides access to health care and increases tourism dollars.”


Andrew Glassfeld, an Oxford County resident who described himself as a “nerd by trade,” gave a brief overview of broadband, which he said the FCC described as “high-speed internet that is always on.”

Glassfeld added that Maine’s standard for broadband is to provide internet with a minimum of 10 megabits per second (mbps) for downloading data, or 10 million bits per second, and a minimum of 10 mbps for uploading data.

“Right now, no businesses or homes meet the Maine standards for broadband internet,” he said.

Halfway through the meeting, residents in the audience split up into groups and sat down with members of the committee responsible for applying for the grant.

Otisfield resident Kristin Roy said that her house has DSL internet through FairPoint because cable internet is not available where she lives.

She said that if someone in her family is watching Netflix, nobody else in the house can use the internet because “they slow each other down.”


Her son, James Gosnell, a student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, said that sometimes, his classes require the use of a website, and because his internet is slow sometimes, he has to download files of his homework and print them out instead of using the websites.

Roy said, “Sometimes, it works great. Other times, not so much.”

Gosnell quickly piped in, “’Great’ probably is too strong of a word.”

He later said that the download of his internet was 4 mbps, well below Maine standards.

Committee member Steve Wight of Newry said that he and the other people on the committee would take the information given by Roy, Gosnell and the other residents and use it to help them apply for the grant.

“The grant will be used to help us hire a consultant who has helped bring broadband to communities like this before,” he said.

Steve Wight of Newry, who serves on a committee that is writing a grant to help expand broadband access in Oxford County, listens Tuesday evening as people share their experiences with slow internet at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School.

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