Internet is a necessary utility, not a luxury

Thu, 11/26/2020 - 7:30pm

    The Town of Lincolnville may be my favorite place in the world. After living in three countries and four states, there was no doubt when it came time for me to decide where home was. It has one of the best schools in the state and has amazing artists, hard working farmers, and ingenious entrepreneurs. We have just about everything — well, almost everything.

    Our amazing town and its hard working residents are living in an internet slum. The prices are high, the speeds are slow, it goes down occasionally, and if you don't like it, too bad. There is literally nowhere else to turn. The same absentee landlord owns all of the internet real estate in Lincolnville. LCI (also called Lincolnville Telephone and Tidewater) is the only company that offers internet as well as landline and cable service here. No other company will bring broadband to our town because it is not profitable for them to do so.

    If you want internet service, you must purchase a landline, as well. This basic package is DSL internet and costs around $90 a month. The internet speed you receive for that amount is roughly 10mbps download and 1mbps upload. In real terms, that is enough to stream one device. It makes Zoom calls very difficult, and uploading anything, let alone videos, near impossible.

    There is a fiber optic option that is faster, but it's not available to everyone in our town. It’s also much slower than comparable fiber optic for the price than most other places in the United States. They charge $70/month for 50 mbps down/10 mbps up, when a typical price and speed for fiber optic elsewhere in the country is $50/month for 100 mbps down/100mbps up. We're getting ripped off.

    If you are lucky enough to have fiber running down your road, and convince LCI to run the line to your house, it often costs thousands of dollars for the installation. For everyone stuck with DSL, we are being charged a premium price for decades-old technology that does not serve our most basic needs.

    According to the FCC, broadband is defined as 25mbps download, which is three times faster than what LCI offers the majority of the town. It sometimes feels as if we as a town are being held hostage, with LCI only offering to upgrade the service if we help them get taxpayer money to subsidize them. In layman’s terms, that is corporate welfare. I don't know anyone who has a business in Lincolnville that gets paid taxpayer money to operate their business at a higher profit. Sign me up for that program!

    Now more than ever, the internet has become a necessary utility. It is no longer a luxury. If you do not have access to fast internet in 2020, you are at a distinct economic disadvantage. We are living with this disadvantage in Lincolnville, and the time has come to turn it into a strength.

    I am the vice-chair of our vibrant Broadband Committee made up of Lincolnville residents. We have been working hard for the past eight months to research ways that we can bring affordable and reliable internet to ALL Lincolnvillians.

    The news is good! There are many ways that affordable fiber optic internet could be brought to Lincolnville. One where the town has a valuable and tangible asset, that provides a critical and necessary service to its citizens, and raises property values as well. We could have 1gig download and upload speeds (which is 100 times the current speed) and taxpayers would still save money over what they pay for internet from LCI.

    My name is Jordan Barnett-Parker and I'm running for the Lincolnville Board of Selectmen on Dec. 15, 2020. If you care about affordable, reliable, and better broadband for all, please support me with your vote!