Updated: Feb 28
Persistence has been the name of the game in Franklin County. Spearheaded by Greater Franklin Economic and Community Development (Greater Franklin), efforts to expand broadband service across the county started kicked off in 2017. Crediting community engagement from day one, the region moved forward with a study published in 2018. The study produced a comprehensive analysis of the project area (Franklin County and the town of Livermore Falls, in Androscoggin County) that examined pre-existing networks and modeled potential solutions for the future. In summary, the report found that the most efficient course of action for the region is to seek out public-private partnership opportunities – complete overbuilds are simply too costly for the predominantly rural county.
Armed with this knowledge, Charlie Woodworth, the executive director of Greater Franklin sought out ISPs (internet service providers) to partner with in addition to continuing the work to make Franklin County grant-ready. This meant carrying on with the rigorous process of community engagement on the one hand and chasing down various avenues for cost-sharing and grant opportunities with the other. The towns of Weld, Wilton, and Perkins and Washington townships (~1,200 homes) entered into partnership with Matrix Engineering for a $6.5 million project -- $4.5 million to be paid for by the ISP. Only the pole attachment fees were to be paid by the towns, an approximate $2 million.
To bring costs down for the group, Greater Franklin applied for two grants – one federal, from the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), and one from ConnectMaine. Worth $1 million, Franklin County secured a grant for NBRC. As of March 20, 2022, a grant application from ConnectMaine has been submitted. With these two grants, the project cost for the group could be brought down to 10% of the total estimate.
Further north in the county, Greater Franklin and their data attracted Consolidated Communications to propose a fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network for the 4-town Rangeley region. This project plus the Farmington Exchange -- another partnership with Consolidated Communications in Farmington, Temple, East Wilton, Industry, New Sharon, and Chesterville – is gearing up to deliver full fiber access to over 10,000 addresses by the end of 2023. Funding for the project comes from NTIA money won by ConnectMaine for over $28 million dollars.
For more information on initiatives happening across the state -- including community spotlights and an interactive map -- click here