Broadband in Franklin County
In 2017 a grassroots collection of citizen leaders from around the county recognized the greatest threat to Franklin county’s future success was the current state of inadequate broadband infrastructure. At the time, there was no plan to upgrade it to future, or even current FCC standards.
A county-wide study was needed to assess existing assets (Who was connected? Who was not?) and provide high-level costs to upgrade the entire county to a functioning standard. The Opportunity Center of North Franklin County was successful with grants from the state and county. Eventually, through their extensive outreach and education, all twenty-two towns in our region plus the 15 townships contributed to help underwrite the study. On January 31st, 2018 the plan was unveiled at a public meeting. More than one hundred citizens, town managers and elected officials attended to learn about where we were and what needed to be done.
Franklin county is a rural region that doesn’t have the population base to attract internet service providers to upgrade their networks. We recognized that our solution had to be a public/private partnership where our towns shared the cost to upgrade. Since then it has been a steady push to support our towns as they work with their citizens to get their endorsement to share in the investment to connect their towns to the 21st century.
Current Status of Broadband Expansion in Franklin County
On February 25th of 2022, ConnectMaine announced that they had been awarded $28 million in federal funding to support broadband expansion in Maine. Of that $28 million, $9.5 million is dedicated to connecting 9 Franklin County towns – 10,976 addresses.
On March 11th of 2022, it was announced that Greater Franklin’s application for $514,000 in Congressional Directed Spending (CDS) was successful. This funding will expand fiber-to-the-home internet connections in the Wilton and Weld area.
At the moment, we are working on two fiber-to the-home projects. These projects will begin implementation in 2022:
Wilton & Weld
The proposed provider for the Wilton and Weld area buildout is Matrix. It will include four towns – 1,200 addresses – to be built out with fiber-to-the-home internet by the end of 2023. It is a $6.5M project that will be partially funded by the county, the towns, and other funding raised by Greater Franklin. The Congressional Directed Spending of $514K could lower town costs substantially. Greater Franklin has raised $1.514M of federal funds for this project.
Consolidated Communications (CCI) in Farmington Exchange and Rangeley
The provider for this project is Consolidated Communications (CCI). Nine towns in the Farmington area and Rangeley area – 11,000 addresses – will be built out with fiber-to-the-home internet by the end of 2023. This project will serve approximately half of the addresses in the entire county. It is a $27.5M project that will be paid for by $9.5M in National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) funds and $18M in investment by CCI. Greater Franklin worked with the state and CCI to see that Franklin County played a significant role in the process of acquiring NTIA funding.