China Broadband Committee (CBC) members continued discussing possible future ways to improve internet service to China residents at an hour-long Feb. 17 meeting.
They plan to meet next at 4 p.m. Wednesday (not the usual Thursday), March 9, in the portable building behind the town office. At that meeting they expect to have another proposal from or discussion with representatives of Spectrum Communications and Consolidated Communications.
In past offers, both companies have offered to extend service at considerable cost to the town. The resulting network would be owned by the respective company, not by the town.
The proposal for which China voters rejected a bond issue last November would have resulted in a town-owned network, an outcome committee members preferred.
Yet another option would be formation of a district with one or more other towns. CBC members have considered it; there are no plans. Committee Chairman Robert O’Connor said he had received an inquiry from a Vassalboro resident, to whom he suggested involving Vassalboro select board members.
CBC members understand that China voters prefer not to have costs come from taxes. A system paid for by users is one option; other possibilities for avoiding or minimizing local shared costs are interesting private investors or using county, state or federal grants.
China does not have the densely-populated area that attracts private investors. Much of the grant money for which regulations have been written is for towns with no internet service; but most China households are served, not necessarily satisfactorily.
Related questions Feb. 17 were whether CBC members want to request funding at the June 1 town business meeting and if so, what for. One suggestion was a household survey to find out exactly what service residents have and what they would like to have.
Selectmen have approved asking voters to appropriate $40,000 for broadband from China’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) fund, $10,000 to continue hiring consultant Mission Broadband for another year and $30,000 to get started on a project if one is approved during the 2022-23 fiscal year.
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