BETHEL — In September, the Woodstock, Greenwood, Bethel, and Newry boards of selectmen received a report and presentation from the Mahoosuc Community Broadband Committee and Casco Bay Advisors about the current state of high-speed internet service and strategies for expanding service to residents across the four towns, plus Gilead and Albany and Milton townships.

The report found that roughly one-third of households — nearly 2,000 — are currently “unserved,” according to state and federal standards. This finding is a major concern as high-speed internet becomes increasingly vital for work, education, health care, and community engagement.

Locations Currently “served” and “unserved” by high-speed internet by town/township are:

Town/Township Unserved Served by Cable Served by Fiber Served by Fiber & Cable Total
Albany 360 7 0 0 414
Bethel 470 1,020 85 530 2,124
Gilead 117 0 48 0 166
Greenwood 257 308 178 46 804
Milton 86 0 0 0 87
Newry 64 540 47 259 928
Woodstock 382 341 37 176 1,008
Totals 1,909 2,216 395 1,011 5,531
34% 40% 7% 18%


The report also outlined several approaches to addressing this gap. Potential strategies range from working with current internet service providers to build out existing cable and fiber networks, to working with a single ISP to expand fiber service (the current gold standard) to all households, to creating a municipally-owned fiber network to support service and competition by multiple ISPs.

Each approach comes with a significant price tag, ranging from $6.3 to $16.1 million. While these figures are high, historic levels of state and federal funding are coming online to offset rural broadband expansion costs. And the cost of not taking action will be felt in the loss of business opportunities and real estate values, declining education and health outcomes, and isolation for many residents.

Following guidance from the select boards, the committee is now gathering proposals for expanded service from the area’s current ISPs, which are Charter/Spectrum and First Light. To ensure the committee fully considers all options, it is also doing a more detailed analysis of the costs and benefits of a municipal broadband network and exploring new wireless technologies.

In the coming months, the committee and the towns hope to identify a strategy that best balances costs and benefits for local residents and move forward with grant proposals to state and federal agencies.

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