China Broadband Committee members spent almost two hours March 4 trying to get their chickens and eggs in the right order – as they repeatedly expressed their dilemma – and came to what has become their usual conclusion: they need more information and another meeting.
Their next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 11.
The committee’s assignment is to expand and improve broadband service in China. Consultant John Dougherty, of Mission Broadband, reminded them why the task is important, especially with more people working from home: neither new residents nor new businesses will be attracted to a town that provides inferior broadband connectivity.
Committee member Tod Detre shared Dougherty’s view. Before earlier localized improvements increased internet access at his house on China Lake, he and his wife had seriously discussed whether they would have to move out of town to continue working, he said.
Committee members agreed on two important factors: the service they recommend must cover all households in town, and it must be able to adapt to technological changes.
The committee has responses from three companies – Axiom Technologies, Sertex Broadband Solutions and Spectrum Community Solutions – to the request for proposals they issued in late December 2020. Committee members discussed the possibility of getting in touch with other companies.
They see three main issues on which they need more information to come up with a recommended plan that will meet town needs at a reasonable price.
- They need to compare the three vendors more adequately. So far they have discussed Spectrum’s offer at most length, and have found a major obstacle.
- They need to get more information on costs and returns and consider how to cover costs.
- And they need to find out with reasonable accuracy how many China residents would sign up for and pay for better service.
They see the three as so interdependent that they could not decide which to attack first. The quality of service will help determine the number of users; the number of users will be a major determinant of income; income will affect costs and how they are paid; costs will affect the number of users; and so the circle goes.
Another point of agreement was that at future meetings, committee members should focus on a single topic. Committee members Detre and Neil Farrington suggested, in no particular order, discussion with Axiom representatives; discussion with Sertex representatives; plans for a community education program; and funding.
Committee member Jamie Pitney, a lawyer, pointed out the problem with Spectrum’s proposal: the town would be expected to fund it through a bond issue, but Spectrum would continue to own the lines, and in Pitney’s opinion state law does not allow a town to bond something it would not own.
The expected revised proposal from Spectrum had been received, but it offered no solution to the legal issue.
Several committee members, without doubting Pitney’s expertise, proposed getting an opinion from Town Attorney Amanda Meader as a more official statement. Janet Preston, the committee’s ex officio member representing the selectboard, volunteered to ask Town Manager Becky Hapgood if there is money left in the current year’s legal account to reimburse Meader.
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