Internet study broadened

BAR HARBOR — The town will pay $38,000 for a three-month study outlining the options for expanding fiber-optic and broadband internet access to every corner of the community, following town council approval Tuesday.

Councilors had previously approved $20,000 for the study, but added the extra money Tuesday at the request of the communications technology task force (CTTF) after it indicated that the original figure was inaccurate and would not be enough. The money is coming out of the town’s contingency fund.

CTTF member and town technical systems administrator Steve Cornell told councilors Tuesday that there is high interest in the project.

“Even though we’re a technology task force, we really believe that this project is economic development driven,” he said. “It’s not a build-it-and-they-will-come, but the people who are here want to have the broadband. And we see a lot of interest in improving broadband.”

The study, to be done by Tilson consulting, will be similar to the one recently completed in Ellsworth, Cornell said, which has led that city to begin the process of building its own fiber-optic network.

“Whatever Ellsworth paid for that study, it was worth it,” Cornell said. The results included financial information about what the town could generate by leasing dark fiber as well as the costs of running and maintaining their own network, all information that Bar Harbor will need, Cornell said.

Bar Harbor’s town offices and schools are currently linked with a fiber-optic network. However, that network is owned by Time Warner Cable through an expired franchise agreement. The cable company has expressed little interest in giving it to the town.

The Tilson study will consider the town’s options for expanding a municipal network as well as running a fiber network to serve the entire community. The study will further outline technological solutions for bringing broadband to the rural districts here.

“I think that really needs to be the long-term goal of this plan … to make sure that we are serving all of those unserved and underserved areas,” CTTF member Matt Hochman said.

Ruth Eveland of the Hub of Bar Harbor said her nonprofit group has the grant writing capabilities and resources to lend support once the study is completed and the town begins considering the reality of building out a network. Cornell said that Ellsworth’s project is being paid for largely with a $250,000 grant.

Robert Levin

Robert Levin

Former reporter Robert Levin covered the people, businesses, governmental and nonprofit agencies of Bar Harbor. [email protected]
Robert Levin

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