FARMINGTON–Access to high-quality, affordable and reliable internet service has become a necessity for rural western Maine.

To share the possibilities available, the Franklin County Broadband Initiative will present details about high-speed broadband options at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Bass Room at Franklin Memorial Hospital.

Charles Woodworth, executive director of the Greater Franklin Development Corp., has spent much of the last two years hearing about rural western Maine residents’ frustrations with expensive, monthly costs, slow speeds and spotty connections.

The Wednesday evening presentation is the result of a collaborative effort by area organizations responding to communities looking for quality broadband service.

While many residents are accustomed to modest upload and download speeds, a growing group finds western Maine’s rural broadband options expensive, unreliable and limited. Woodworth said he has learned a lot about the frustrations of residents. Families want their children to be able to compete with others in high-speed connected communities, while business owners want to grow and enable employees to telecommute.

Meantime, municipalities seek to save time and money by having employees take professional-development webinars online. And medical service providers would benefit from offering patients equipment to monitor critical health issues and reduce the need for frequent trips to a hospital or doctors’ offices.


Additionally, owners of seasonal-rental properties say tenants are not interested if high-speed internet is not available. Property values can increase or decrease, based on access to broadband.

“We urge selectmen, business leaders, educators and citizens to join Franklin County Broadband Initiative to learn about exciting plans for broadband implementation,” Woodworth said. “We’d like to see standing room only on Wednesday evening for this unique opportunity.”

FCBI will have consultant Brian Lippold of the James W. Sewall Co. explain possible countywide and town specific plans, statewide broadband planning process and how Franklin County can take advantage of the state-wide planning process. The presentation also will review legislative activity and ways town and county leadership can lobby the legislature in support of increased broadband access.

Western Maine organizers include: Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee and Greater Franklin Development Corp.

Their goal has been to help communities get connected to the established “middle mile” fiber network that was built through parts of the state with stimulus money from the American and Recovery Act. That fiber optics backbone through the state-connected University of Maine campuses, hospitals and other large users of bandwidth.

That network has plenty of unused bandwidth, called “dark fiber,” but the toughest part for rural communities is the detailed planning required to connect to it, according to Woodworth.

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