Local partnership seeks expand, improve Internet in Franklin County
FARMINGTON - A collaboration of local partners seeking to improve broadband Internet service throughout Franklin County has scheduled three meetings this month to gauge support and listen to concerns.
Broadband Internet is high-speed, reliable access, as measured through download and upload speeds. As defined by the Federal Communications Commission, broadband equates to at least 25 megabits per second download speed and 4 mbps for uploads. Access to broadband allows for the rapid transfer of voice services, video and other forms of data; currently, most of Maine doesn't have broadband Internet access that meets the new FCC definition.
"We want to identify coverage," Charles Woodworth, representing the Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, said. "Where are the holes? What is it going to take to fill them?"
The Opportunity Center of North Franklin County, the Greater Franklin Development Council, the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments and the Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee have formed the basis for a grassroots effort that is working together to expand broadband access, beginning with a series of meetings. The meetings are a chance for local residents and business owners to meet with consultants and guest speakers from some broadband providers.
Meetings have been scheduled for March 15 at 6 p.m. at the Rangeley Lakes Regional School, March 16 at 6 p.m. at the Farmington Community Center and March 29 at 6 p.m. at the Phillips Community Center.
The meetings are being held in advance of an application for a planning grant through ConnectME Broadband Authority, a state board funded by federal money that seeks to improve the availability of broadband in Maine. That grant would fund a plan that would go toward determining how higher speed Internet could be brought to the entire county.
"We need to show support," Woodworth said. "If we are passive, nothing is going to happen."
At minimum, organizers are hoping to get residents and business owners to fill out an online survey, located here. That survey is important, Woodworth said, as it will help the planners identify holes in Franklin County's Internet coverage.
Local organizers believe that greater access to broadband could positively impact economic development, healthcare and education in Franklin County, as well as acting as a draw for younger would-be residents.
Woodworth said that, in addition to supporting the grant application, organizers hope to promote greater public engagement in an effort to bring broadband to everywhere in Franklin County.
More information is available through the Opportunity Center at email@example.com; the Greater Franklin Development Council at 778-5887 or firstname.lastname@example.org; the Rangeley Economic Opportunity Committee at 864-3326 or email@example.com; and the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce at 778-4215 or firstname.lastname@example.org