MINOT — Selectmen voted unanimously this week to support passage of a $15 million state bond to bring high-speed internet service to unserved and underserved areas.

Maine voters will decide the referendum question July 14.

Three areas of town are served by three internet providers: Spectrum, Consolidated Communications and FirstLight, formerly Oxford Networks.

However, 40% of the town has no internet service or inadequate internet speeds, and the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted that fact, Town Administrator Danielle Loring said.

“I started here in Minot about two years (ago) and in the two years I almost have had a weekly or monthly phone call,” Loring said. “People are calling to say ‘What are you guys doing about it?’ Especially with the recent events of the pandemic, home schooling and people working from home, distance learning and so on and so worth, it really highlighted how inadequate the services are.”

The 5-0 vote Monday came at the request of the town’s Broadband Committee chaired by Colleen Quint.

Loring believes Minot would be a perfect candidate for high-speed internet service because most of the town does not meet Federal Communications Commission speed requirements of 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload.

The town has tried to upgrade broadband infrastructure recently through a partnership with Great Works Internet in Biddeford to get a ConnectMaine Authority grant, but it did not qualify.

ConnectME is a public instrument of state government whose mission is to facilitate the universal availability of broadband to all Maine households and businesses.

“One of the scoring criteria is when they look at the (application), they take a look at the potential cost of the project,” Loring said. “In our case, I think it was almost $281,000 and you divide that by the potential subscribers,” 110 residents and 11 businesses, and the cost was $2,322.

“So, because this number was so high in relation to other applications, we only scored five points out of 20,” she said.

Great Works Internet was recently awarded money to build out in Oxford County, including Hebron, which borders Minot, Loring said.

“They were going to connect the line they were putting in Hebron through Minot to get to Auburn, but that’s not going to happen now because we didn’t score high enough to be awarded funds.”

Minot officials are working with Brian Lippold of Casco Bay Advisors who is speaking to internet service providers about their interest in building internet connectivity to the underserved areas of Minot.

Question 1 on the statewide referendum ballot asks voters if they favor a $15,000,000 bond for high-speed internet infrastructure for unserved and underserved areas to match up to $30 million in federal, private, local or other funds?

If the bond doesn’t pass, Minot officials will continue to investigate funding options such as ConnectME and the Island Institute in Rockland, which helps rural towns secure state and federal funding for broadband internet service.

“A lot of these grants are focused on rural communities,” Loring said. “I will tell you Minot is by that definition rural. We are a broad mix of residential, commercial and agriculture uses out here.”

If the bond doesn’t pass, Loring said the town would likely look at raising taxes or implementing a connection fee.


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