KINGFIELD — High-speed internet service would improve Franklin County’s economic bottom line, an official from the Greater Franklin Development Council told selectmen Monday night.

Charlie Woodworth, executive director of the council, said he took U.S. Rep. Jared Golden, D-Lewiston, on a tour of Western Maine to meet those who hope to expand their businesses, further their educations and be able to work and raise families in the area. Companies that provide the broadband infrastructure do not want to invest a lot of capital to serve a small customer base, Woodworth said.

“We just don’t have the density,” he said. “We live in rural Maine.”

Woodworth introduced Golden to local business owners and visited Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington to hear about the importance of broadband access for rural towns. The small hospital could offer higher quality services that are available in larger metropolitan areas but it needs highly-trained nurses. The workforce is available, Woodworth said.

Instead of moving away to pursue a degree, they could pursue their studies online.

Golden met with a forester working from a home office, who said his internet access speed prevents him from being more competitive.

Energy, education, transportation, workforce development and other economic issues will require funding, Woodworth said. Broadband is an important link to all of these. Families with school-age children look elsewhere if the towns they want to live in do not have broadband access.

“Do students who take classes for college credit have access at the high school?” Selectman John Dill asked.

Many area residents, including students, don’t have internet access, and instead, sit at night in front of local libraries, where they get a wireless signal, according to Woodworth and several others  in the audience.

Another important factor is the continued development is what Woodworth called “destination tourism.” Areas such as Carrabassett Valley and Rangeley depend on accessibility to advertise and promote their natural resources.

Golden is sponsoring a broadband proposal, and Woodworth said possibilities are promising.

Woodworth also addressed a New England telecommunications conference and said two providers are interested in seeking potential funding sources to deliver broadband service to the area. One plan addresses Chesterville, New Sharon and Farmington, and the other would provide service on Route 4, including Strong, Avon, Phillips and Rangeley.

Woodworth said he was not able to discuss the potential providers until more details are finalized.

In other matters, selectmen:

  • Approved increasing renewals for motor vehicle registrations from $3 to $4 and new registrations from $4 to $6.
  • Agreed to require groups who rent Webster Hall to park vehicles in the back of the building.
  • Voted to close the kitchen in the Town Office building Dec. 31 because it would cost more than $20,000 for a grease trap and a fire-suppression system that are required.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: