2017-02-15 / Front Page

Residents want reliable, affordable connection

By Dee Menear Irregular Staff Writer

KINGFIELD — About three dozen people attended a public forum hosted by the Opportunity Center of Northern Franklin County Tuesday, Feb. 7 despite a snowstorm that cancelled most evening meetings and activities. The purpose of the forum was to discuss an initiative to bring Broadband service to the entire county.

“Broadband is no longer a luxury,” stated Charlie Woodworth, OC point person. Woodworth explained Broadband was a faster and more reliable Internet service and was essential for education, healthcare and economic development opportunities.

“Businesses are attracted to areas with Broadband service. Employees are also attracted to those areas. Employees are not likely to relocate to an area where Broadband is not available,” Woodworth stated.

The audience was asked what they would like to see for internet service in Franklin County. Answers ranged from speed, reliability to affordability. Participants stated competition between providers was needed. Benefits of service included more opportunities for education, the ability to work from home, and increased public safety.

Several participants voiced frustration over internet connectivity that did not allow for working from home or personal use.

The Opportunity Center of Northern Franklin County, a non-profit organization based in Phillips, is working to secure a planning grant through ConnectME that would allow the group and its collaborators to identify areas in the county where service is inadequate or unavailable. The results of a planning grant would reveal costs associated with bringing Broadband service to county homes. Once costs are discovered, communities would have the opportunity to prioritize budgets in order to build a Broadband infrastructure.

A survey has been developed to help identify the needs of the county. Residents are urged to fill the survey out electronically using a link posted at avcog.org. The survey includes a link to a speed test that will reveal upload and download speeds. Information gathered during the survey will be used in the planning process. Franklin County residents wishing to fill out a paper copy of the survey should call AVCOG at 783-9186.

A second Public Forum will be held in Rangeley in March. A forum is also being planned for the southern part of the state. Information about those meetings will be published when it is confirmed.

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