WILTON — With the landscape of city and town infrastructures constantly evolving and changing, broadband internet has situated itself as an essential part of daily life. It’s how we consume news, media, communicate and more and the United States has made a strong push to bring equitable broadband infrastructure to the more rural parts of the country on both a state and federal level.

Wilton was in one such position when, in November of last year, the Board of Selectpersons voted to have former Town Manager Perry Ellsworth work with Matrix Design Groups to apply for grant funding through the Maine Connectivity Authority [MCA]. The plan was to have Matrix Design Group utilize the funding, along with funding from the town and their own personal funds, to install the necessary infrastructure for broadband capabilities.

From there, Matrix would function as the service provider until after a minimum of five years, wherein the town of Wilton would have the option to purchase the network and host it as their own municipality service, much like water and sewer. The application was filed and the Wilton Select Board voted to accept the grant in July of this year.

Since then, multiple curveballs have thrown that initial plan in question.

The first curveball was the purchasing of Bee Line Cable. Charter Communications began the process in March, with the sale finalized in July. Since then, no major development has come from either Bee Line or Charter, but George Allen, general manager for Bee Line Cable, told The Franklin Journal the process would be a slow one.

“It’s a large process,” Allen said in a phone interview. “You’ve got a lot of FCC filings to do and state filings. And then, of course, the local franchise filings, things like that. So, it all takes time.”


The oldest broadband provider in the state of Maine, Bee Line provides service for several communities, including East Millinocket, Millinocket, Anson, Madison, Skowhegan, Farmington, Wilton, and Industry. In Wilton, Bee Line services almost 1,900 residents. Bee Line’s purchase left a mixed response among the general public. Several voiced their dissatisfaction with Bee Line, including Ellsworth.

“Bee Line didn’t take very good care of Wilton and hasn’t met its commitments for a number of years,” he stated at a Select Board meeting.

Other consumers, however, are more favorable towards Charter Communications. One Central Maine user, who commented on the initial article stated, “This is definitely bad news for Bee Line customers. I had Bee Line when I lived in Millinocket, and they were a good, caring, local company that provided excellent service. Since I’ve had Spectrum that has not been the case. Yearly price hikes and poor service has been the rule.”

“I bailed from Spectrum at my first opportunity,” another user stated. “Folks in Bee Line’s territory should consider their options.”

As for those other options, the pool of broadband providers continues to get diluted with rumors that Consolidated Communications, originally providing broadband internet to East Wilton, are planning to expand to the remainder of Wilton.

Representatives from Consolidated Communications could not be reached for comment. With them moving into Wilton and Charter Communications’ purchasing of Bee Line, the question of market share threatens Matrix’s plan for Wilton.


Brian Lippold of Casco Bay Advisors, LLC, paid a visit to the Select Board before they had voted to accept the MCA grant and advised against accepting the grant funding on the grounds that Wilton could not demonstrate the market share needed to fulfill the grant.

“The grant from the MCA requires the town to demonstrate that at least 50% of the potential subscriber locations have signed up for service,” Lippold said.

At the following meeting, Lauren Cassle, account manager from Matrix Design Group, assured the Select Board that attaining a 50% market share was not an issue in other towns when Matrix Design Group and the town partnered together to spread the word of the service.

Without the 50% market share, however, the plan was dead in the water, with Project Manager Matthew Dunn stating as much at the meeting.

“If the 50% rate isn’t achieved, then essentially, you have to go back to the board and the grant funds go away,” Dunn stated. “Is it feasible to build without the grant funds and the infusion of that capital? My guess is probably not.”

Since the vote has gone through, Ellsworth lamented at a meeting in November that “nothing has moved” between them and Matrix as they have failed to come close to achieving a 50% market share.

“We haven’t been able to achieve anywhere close to that,” Ellsworth said, stating 50% market share in the town would amount to 700 households. Ellsworth told the Select Board that at least two different entities, which he did not disclose to the board, were interested in working with Wilton to provide broadband services to the town utilizing the MCA grant. He advised them to meet with those individuals before the next meeting.

Selectperson David Leavitt agreed, adding, “We obviously can’t seem to get anything out of the Matrix, and its not benefitting the town in what they are doing right now.”

Since that meeting, the Select Board and current Town Manager Maria Greeley are in the process of renegotiating the terms of the grant and potentially working with a separate entity to utilize the MCA grant. An executive session was held on Tuesday, Nov. 28, to workshop what potential options the town has with the MCA grant. An update was scheduled for their meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 5, but was tabled for a future meeting.

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