FAYETTE — Officials have taken the next step in pursuing an internet contract with Rockland-based Redzone Wireless, which is offering a service that could bring high-speed internet to every home in a town that now has limited internet access.

Selectmen first heard the company’s pitch Oct. 19 during an executive session, after which they directed Town Manager Mark Robinson “to enter into a letter of intent and receive a proposed contract from Redzone Wireless for the provision of high-speed internet services.”

Officials met Election Day (Nov. 2) to hear a public presentation from Redzone. The company’s offer includes internet access throughout the community, up to 500 megabits per second (mbps) download speeds and 100 mbps upload speeds.

The new service is made possible through a collaboration with Tarana Wireless, whose Gigabit 1 technology “delivers fiber-class speeds and quality over non-line-of-sight connections at long range — in an unlicensed spectrum — that are immune to interference and changes at the scene,” according to its website.

“Redzone reaches unserved and off-grid locations in the same way that mobile broadband reaches them today and has been for over 20 years: wirelessly,” said Redzone Wireless President and CEO Jim McKenna. “Our purpose-built wireless technology is engineered to form a non-line-of-sight last mile bridge between the fiber network and the home.”

All told, the project would cost the town $1,285,380 over five years; however, Redzone has agreed to cover 70% of the costs, in addition to any future costs for operating expenses, technical support, network maintenance and technology. The town’s contribution would be $385,275.

Packages offered include $50 a month for a 100/20 mbps download and upload speed connection, $75 a month for a 100/100 mbps connection and $99 a month for a 500/100 mbps connection.

The board directed the town manager and attorney to “further negotiate the content of the Redzone Wireless proposed contract and identify a path forward to provide Fayette’s proposed 30% one-time contribution investment,” according to the meeting’s draft minutes.

The board approved the action, with chairperson Lacy Badeau abstaining due to a family connection with another internet service provider.

“That’s where we are right now,” Robinson said. “It’s really in the hands of the town attorney, and hammering out the final language of the contract for a future selectmen meeting.”

He said it was unclear when this meeting will happen.

Fayette is among six towns in the Western Kennebec Lakes Community Broadband Association. The association has worked for three years to find a way to bring high-speed internet to the member communities, which also includes Leeds, Mount Vernon, Readfield, Vienna and Wayne. The group contracted recently with Preti Flaherty, the large law firm, to draft an interlocal agreement among member towns, with the hope of becoming a nonprofit and building its own network.

Brian Lippold, president of Casco Bay Advisors, an organization that helps communities with broadband committee organization and establishing high-speed internet networks, said the association’s member towns are in the process of learning more about Redzone’s service and its ability to meet their needs.

“The towns of Readfield, Wayne, Fayette and Vienna will be issuing requests for proposals in the next week or two and we expect Redzone to respond to that RFP with their new service proposal,” he said, adding Redzone’s service could play a significant role on a statewide basis.

“It’s exciting,” Robinson said, “but it’s also created this pause button moment for all of the communities to think about how we can make this work and make this an attractive, less-expensive option for communities that desperately need quality, high-speed broadband access.”

Redzone’s pitch would let the project be nonexclusive, meaning the town would have the option to simultaneously establish another internet service.

McKenna said Redzone now provides internet to more than 100 Maine communities.

“To my knowledge, Redzone is the only Maine-owned and operated internet service provider that provides internet service in all of Maine’s 16 counties,” he said. “We serve thousands of locations statewide.”

As of Tuesday, McKenna said Redzone was responding to proposal requests from more than 30 Maine communities, with that number increasing on a weekly basis. He said the company is interested in providing service to more underserved areas in the state.

“Wireless offers comparable speeds and lower latency than cable and fiber-to-the-home,” he said, “and it has the potential to connect every present and every future location in a community with a single, one-time investment. I would not bet against it.”

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