On January 8th, GFDC Executive Director Charlie Woodworth testified in favor of LD520: a $100 million bond to support the implementation of broadband internet in unserved and underserved rural Maine.

Charlie testified the following on behalf of GFDC and representing the Franklin County Broadband Initiative (FCBI):

 

“Like all of rural Maine, Franklin County is challenged with strengthening economic and community development. If we want people to think of moving to rural Maine to work, bring their businesses, and bring their families, then we have to start with having access to reliable high-speed broadband connectivity to all homes, not just businesses.  It is the cornerstone of economic and community development.

We saw an opportunity with the ConnectME grant program to form a collaboration of five different economic development entities pulled together and apply for a planning grant. We were successful with the state grant, as well as a county grant. A big part of the success with both of those grants was that we included the whole county (plus Livermore Falls) in our plan. Additionally, we were committed to having each town in the county financially contribute to their share of the plan. No other grant recipient has accomplished this. The fact that each of our towns has invested in their plan tells us that they want to be marching alongside of the other towns as equal partners as we work to connect the whole county.

This should be a model for the rest of the state.

Our plan is in its final draft stage and will be presented by our consultant, Brian Lippold from James W. Sewall Company (Sewall) at a county-wide meeting on January 31st in Farmington.  You are welcome to attend. Our plan will be considering a county-wide implementation but will also be structured to allow each individual municipality to pursue whatever solution they choose.

Our study tells us:

  • The capital cost to deploy a Fiber-to-the-Premise (FTTP) open-access dark fiber network, suitable for any Internet Service Provider (ISP) to offer symmetrical 1Gigibit service to all constituents within the Study Area (Franklin County plus Livermore Falls), based on preliminary analysis which will be confirmed in the published report is approximately $70 million.
  • The capital cost to expand the cable TV networks in the area capable of providing a minimum 100Mbps downstream / 10Mbps upstream, based on a preliminary analysis which will be confirmed in the published report, is approximately $36 million. Assuming the cable TV providers would require a 60% subsidy to meet their minimum ROI, the cost for the entire Study Area would be $22 million, or 22% of the $100 million bond we are testifying to today.

We recognize that $100 million will not fully address the state-wide broadband challenge, but it is a great first step and will go a long way toward eliminating the digital divide between the urban and rural areas of the State.

On behalf of FCBI, we urge this Committee to pass this bond bill and encourage the legislature to foster these types of public/private partnerships to enable the citizens of Franklin County, Livermore Falls and the rest of the State, to fully participate in our society, democracy and economy.”

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