Officials told connectivity drives economic development

0
5611
Brian Lippold, vice president of James W. Sewall Co., shows a map from the Franklin County Broadband Initiative Planning Study to town officials from  Farmington, Jay, Livermore Falls and Wilton on Thursday night in Jay. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

By Pam Harnden, Staff Writer

JAY — Officials from Farmington, Jay, Livermore Falls and Wilton were told Thursday that internet connectivity is necessary for economic development in greater Franklin County.

Greater Franklin Development Corp. Executive Director Charlie Woodworth and consultant Brian Lippold met with selectmen and town managers to discuss the results of the Franklin County Broadband Initiative Planning Study.

The initiative is a combined effort of The Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, Greater Franklin Development Council, Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee and the Sandy River Business Association. Franklin County’s 22 communities and Livermore Falls contributed a share of the seed money to obtain a grant for the study.

“From an economic development standpoint, we want to attract people who will add to the economic viability of the community. If we make internet service available universally, it will attract more residents, more at home businesses. People can work from home for companies in New York (anywhere),” Lippold said.

Brian Lippold, vice president of James W. Sewall Co., shows a map from the Franklin County Broadband Initiative Planning Study to town officials from  Farmington, Jay, Livermore Falls and Wilton on Thursday night in Jay. (Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser)

“We want to stop out-migration,” Woodworth said. “Connectivity across the county makes us more attractive as a place to live and work, raise a family.”

Lippold said the Federal Communications Commission considers 25 megabits per second download/3 megabits upload sufficient for a household with four people.

He said Livermore Falls and Jay cable customers using Spectrum receive a minimum of 100 megabits per second download/10 megabits per second upload. Spectrum upgrades will increase that to 1 Gigabit per second download/100 megabits per second upload.

BeeLine customers in Wilton and Farmington are getting a maximum of 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload. By the end of 2018, BeeLine upgrades will provide 100 megabits per second download and 10 megabits per second upload.

“No one uses 100 (megabits per second download),” Lippold said. “Only businesses use that amount.”

Farmington Town Manager Richard Davis said its availability is a good selling point.

Lippold said the state’s 911 address base was used to determine where service is available for the study.

“Wilton has a lot of area that is not served,” he said.

Davis said many of the Wilton roads are old back roads with no residences.

The study estimates it would cost the county $70 million to build a completely new, open access 1 gigabit download/1 gigabit upload fiber optic network that any provider could use.

The sum of $11 million would be needed to fill in digital subscriber line services in the county. The sum of $4 million is estimated to provide 10 megabits per second for download and 1 megabit per second for upload countywide.

“Costs increase as the speed increases,” Lippold said.

He shared cost projections for various options in each of the four towns.

Wilton Selectboard Chairperson Tiffany Maiuri said, “The potential public subsidy figure is the amount for towns to pick up.”

Farmington Board of Selectmen Chairman Joshua Bell said, “If we do this is there any guarantee consumers will buy into this?”

Lippold said, “More than 50 percent of subscribers to one network chose the lower speed option. Everyone has a different idea of what is sufficient service. If you don’t have internet, you’ll have difficulty selling a house, renting it out, having people visit.”

Lippold said the public subsidy amount for some options is not a huge number.

Davis said it is huge when there are other priorities.

Central Maine Power representative John Carroll said collaboration on the New England Clean Energy Connect project could reduce costs. CMP uses 5 to 10 percent of the capacity of its fiber optic lines.

The next steps are negotiating with existing and potential service providers and updating the study’s coverage maps.

“Don’t discount any provider,” Lippold said. “Talk to everybody. Keep them all at the table.”

The planning study is available at https://tinyurl.com/y9fq4382.

pharnden@sunmediagroup.net

Data by town

Farmington

22,824 911 addresses

1,637 road miles

25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload option

$11.3 million total cost

$4.3 million private investment

$7 million public subsidy

10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload option

$136,521 total cost

$72,799 private investment

$63,722 public subsidy

Jay

2,568 911 addresses

101.6 road miles

25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload option

$464,799 total cost

$244,912 private investment

$219,886 public subsidy

10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload option

$236,526 total cost

$127,006 private investment

$109,520 public subsidy

Livermore Falls

1,947 911 addresses

53.1 road miles

25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload option

$193,968 total cost

$62,602 private investment

$131,366 public subsidy

10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload option

$25,000 total cost

$4,951 private investment

$20,049 public subsidy

Wilton

2,151 911 addresses

107.7 miles

25 Mbps download/3 Mbps upload option

$1 million total cost

$378,391 private investment

$624,709 public subsidy

10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload option

$312,634 total cost

$93,551 private investment

$219,083 public subsidy

Source: Franklin County Broadband Initiative Planning Study

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here