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The Roberts Trap is Sprung

By:  Bill Dunne
One of the most overlooked aspects of the year just ended is the vindication of Chief Justice John Roberts -- a vindication that showed up as the national catastrophe known as ObamaCare got rolling.  Roberts may have also doomed Hillary Clinton's chance to live in the White House again... click here to read whole editorial


Fort Fairfield Exploring Options to Increase High Speed Internet Connectivity Throughout Town


By:  David Deschesne

Fort Fairfield Journal, March 4, 2015


   The town of Fort Fairfield is currently exploring options to improve internet speed and accessibility to those parts of the town that are either underserved or unserved.  “It's a big project, it's a big undertaking, there's a lot to learn,” said Tim Goff, Fort Fairfield Economic Development and Marketing Director.   “There is fiber in our town.  We're quickly learning what is accessible and what is not, where we are served and where we are not and how to best approach the grant and various funding sources that are available. 

Goff is looking at a new round of funding that is expected to be coming out in late spring to help offset the costs of building the fiber optic infrastructure that Fort Fairfield desperately needs if they plan to remain competitive with surrounding communities.  “Pioneer broadband has done an extensive amount of research on the unserved and underserved portions of our town.  The south section of town past Conant Road - basically all of that section of town is unserved compared to what are the minimum standards for broadband access.  If you think about the west part of town out toward Green Ridge and the towers, that part of town is un- or underserved.  Most of the town across the river, once you get away from Route 1a is unserved, or underserved.  It's a considerable amount of our town when you look at other communities in Aroostook County and the State of Maine we are fast approaching the top of the list in need, especially with our population density.”

   Goff and Tony Levesque recently participated in some conference calls with representatives from Senator King's office, the State Department of Economic and Community Development and from the Connect ME authority, which oversees some of that grant funding.  “It's a hot topic in the legislature right now and there may be other sources and other programs that we may be able to tap into,” said Goff.  “It looks like there's one concrete plan that we're going to try to put some effort behind and do some survey, door-to-door, of individuals on the North part of town to try to determine what their current internet connectivity is, what they would hope to receive for internet connectivity and if they would be willing to pay whatever rate Pioneer Broadband set for that minimum connectability.”

   Goff says that in some places where people who have no connectivity at all could go to upwards of 10 megabytes down and 3 megabytes up.  “In doing that project we would run the fiber through Presque Isle, it would be the cheapest and fastest way to connect the community.  There are some other projects that we are looking at that would do the entire Route 1a corridor that is currently bypassed by the three ring binder project which has the dark fiber that really all communities need to be connected to to be competitive.  That's what we're really working on heavily right now.”

   The intent is to begin the survey this spring to see where in town the demand for high speed access lies.  “We hope to hit the streets probably in the springtime to be able to do some door-to-door surveys.  We may employ some students to do that for us so that we can canvas the area.  We believe our grants in the past hadn't been successful because we may have not been providing enough information about our need, impacted businesses, talking to realtors saying people are looking at these houses but don't want to buy them because nobody can work from home.  Those are some of the things we need to do to tell our story in this community and to bring connectivity to our town.”

   The town is currently exploring the idea of competing for grant money by itself, rather than partnering up with neighboring communities.  “The pool of money is just so small with the Connect ME Authority.  We're looking at a 3 million dollar project.  This year Connect ME has less than a million dollars for grant funding,” explained Goff.  “Now, there are other sources but some of that is being parceled out in $100,000 blocks and while that sounds like good money, fiber is about $15,000 per mile to run and we need a lot of miles of fiber.  Once you have that fiber, it's a DSL service that goes about 3.4 miles from the substation.  So, there's a lot to be done.  There will remain places in town for the foreseeable future that, despite any amount of grant money that we receive, may not be reached at a high enough level to be considered broadband because those standards keep going up as capacity and demand goes up.”

   The parts of town that get serviced first depends in a large part on the willingness of the community members to buy in to the service plans.  “The grants, the way they're structured, Connect ME might provide up to 60% of the funding and Pioneer Broadband, if they're the company that we choose to work with on this project, or others, they would be the group that puts forth the other 40% hoping to recoup at least that cost if not eventually hoping to turn a profit on providing that service to homes.” 

   Goff says building and upgrading internet connectivity is something Fort Fairfield has to do in order to remain competitive in this day and age.  “We've fallen behind other communities not very far from here and we need to be able to compete on that so I think we're doing a good job at trying to find creative ways to do it.  If we get this project it would be a $200,000 to $300,000 project that would impact several hundred homes.”


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