REGION — Efforts continue to bring high-speed internet to the Franklin County towns of Carthage, Temple, Weld and Wilton, and Perkins and Washington townships via broadband by assessing residents’ current needs.

The Greater Franklin Development Council will be collecting survey data from the six towns in order to proceed with a broadband initiative, spearhead by the council’s executive director Charlie Woodworth.

“The goal is to build engagement and awareness around what this project means for the residents,” Woodworth said in an email. “With increased engagement and awareness residents will be in a position to make an informed decision on whether or not to invest in this fiber-to-the-home project for their towns.”

The council was awarded a $1 million grant by the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) last year to support fiber-optic infrastructure improvements in the six towns. The grant will cover 10% of the project’s costs while the council hopes to secure remaining funding from towns, the state and an internet provider.

A considerate amount of funding from the towns would go towards Central Maine Power Company (CMP) to rent pole space for running the fiber-optic cable.

Woodworth said that many residents in the six towns do not have access to broadband that meets Maine’s and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum speeds of 25mbps/3mbps (megabits per second).

To help with the collection of data and to move the initiative along, Wilton formed a broadband committee which has been meeting over the past couple of months.

“It is the opinion of most committee members that current offerings are either expensive relative to the speed and quality of the service provided, typically have support services which are slow to get results from, or both,” committee member Phil Hilton said in an email.

“More importantly, there are still quite a few areas of town with little or no broadband coverage at all,” he continued. “With many people working from home, students participating in remote learning throughout the pandemic, and more and more people considering a move to smaller towns such as ours, these shortcomings are more apparent than ever and put Wilton at a disadvantage.”

Based on survey data, Hilton said that a broadband proposal in coordination with the five other towns and the Greater Franklin Development Council would be brought before the select board for consideration at the annual town meeting. Residents will then have the opportunity to vote on funding the project.

“It’s a simple fact that we present a more viable broadband market together with our neighbors than we do individually, and that opens a few doors that may have been previously closed,” Hilton said.

The Wilton broadband survey is available online at https://tinyurl.com/wiltonbroadbandsurvey2021 and in-person at the town office. Residents may also call the town office and fill the survey out over the phone.

The survey is also available at the Carthage town office and residents of Temple, Weld, Perkins and Washington townships should contact their town office or selectmen to provide broadband feedback.

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