To see ‘what’s going on’

Lincolnville to meet with two entities — one private, one public — about expanding broadband to all citizens

Tue, 01/05/2021 - 5:00pm

    LINCOLNVILLE — The effort to expand broadband capabilities across Lincolnville is gaining traction, and in the words of Select Board member Mike Ray, that technological landscape is “changing fast.”

    “Lincolnville doesn’t want to find itself behind,” he added.

    At their recent Dec. 29 meeting, board members discussed current efforts to improve internet service for its citizens. They agreed to schedule two upcoming meetings with other interested parties. The first will be with Debra Hall, chair of the Rockport Select Board and member of the Camden-Rockport Broadband Task Force, on Monday, Jan. 11.

    The Select Board will then meet with LCI Fiber Jan. 25.

    In the last several weeks, those two respective entities have contacted Lincolnville about their efforts.

    Hall had sent a letter to Lincolnville informing the town about task force progress. That group, comprising citizens from Camden and Rockport, as well as municipal employees, is preparing a request for proposals to potential vendors in order to obtain bids. It is encouraging neighboring towns to join the Camden-Rockport effort.

    “This will enable us to design a network, carefully consider its economic viability, prepare a request for proposals to potential vendors and obtain bids,” the letter to Lincolnville said. “Once we get the proposals back from the internet providers, we can then engage in an informed discussion about how to pay for such a network and how to structure the ownership of it.

    (See attached PDF for the complete letter).

    “Some Town officials believe that the time is ripe to build a network without raising taxes,” the task force said. “That’s what Calais and Baileyville have done – and Millinocket and East Millinocket are going down a similar path. Other New England towns and states have pursued similar creative approaches.

    The task force encourages the public to visit the Maine Broadband Coalition website.

    The privately-owned Nobleboro-based LCI Fiber also reached out to Lincolnville Dec. 21, indicating interest in meeting with Lincolnville’s Select Board.

    That business, which owns Lincolnville Telephone Company and Tidewater Telecom, outlined LCI Fiber’s current efforts to extend broadband (fiber) internet service to underserved/unserved student and/or teacher homes in Lincolnville, Hope and Appleton. 

    “When their current efforts are completed there will still be some areas of town without access to broadband service,” said Town Administrator David Kinney, after the Dec. 29 meeting. “The Board’s stated goal from about a year when the Broadband Committee was formed is ‘to see that no resident is left behind and that affordable broadband service is available to all (100 percent of residents have access).”  

    (See attached PDF for the committee’s full charge)

    The LCI Fiber letter provided maps of all the fiber built out in Lincolnville as a result of the CARES Act fiber build out to eligible student and teacher households.   

    LCI Fiber received $2,165,000 to extend fiber service to Hope, Lincolnville and Appleton and a section of Bristol through the CARES Act. That was part of Gov. Janet Mills Administration’s package of $5.6 million awarded to seven Internet Services Providers to bring high-quality broadband to Maine students and rural communities, last November.

    LCI responded to Lincolnville questions concerning total fiber coverage in town, saying more definitive answers would be available in January. However, LCI said that of the approximate 72 miles of primary roads in Lincolnville, approximately 65 miles have fiber in place, or 90.3 percent.

    “At the conclusion of the CARES fiber build project, I estimate that we will have approximately 65 miles of fiber in place and capable of providing fiber optic broadband service to every home and business on those primary roads,” wrote Alan Hinsey, director of marketing, sales and communications for LCI Fiber. “That represents  approx. 90.3% of all primary roads covered by fiber by Dec. 30.”

    That would leave seven miles of primary road, “left to build out,” he said.

    As for how many additional households will be passed as a results of the CARES fiber build-out, that information is to be provided in January to the town.

    “I think it is clear that LCI is quickly closing in its objective to bring Lincolnville to 100% FTTH [fiber to the home] status,” said Hinsey. 

    At the Dec. 29 meeting, the Select Board agreed to slow down and listen to various ideas.

    Board member Keryn Laite advised that it was time to, “put the brakes on, and hold on, and see what’s going on.”

    Board member Jordan Barnett-Parker suggested that the town continue on a multi-faceted approach — meeting with different parties, and establish a committee to explore other efforts to provide broadband to citizens.

    The board acknowledged that public money was being spent on upgrading and establishing rural internet access, and that it is a rapidly evolving conversation.

    Members agreed to talk first with Hall and LCI, and after that, others.