China committee discusses competing broadband proposals

by Mary Grow

China Broadband Committee (CBC) members discussed competing proposals to improve China’s broadband service for more than two hours Feb. 18, in preparation for virtual interviews with vendors starting at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 22, and a recommendation at a virtual CBC meeting scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24.

The recommendation will go to China selectmen for review at their meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 1.

The three vendors under consideration are Axiom Technologies, of Machias, Maine; Sertex Broadband Solutions, of Plainfield, Connecticut; and Spectrum Community Solutions, of Augusta, Maine.

The only substantive action at the Feb. 18 CBC meeting was a unanimous vote to reject a bid that was submitted after the Jan. 31 deadline for replies to the request for proposals.

Consultants Mark Van Loan and John Dougherty, of Mission Broadband, had received replies to questions they asked of the three competing companies. Two had come in the afternoon of the meeting, and Van Loan said he uploaded them to Sharepoint for committee review.

However, the automatic notice from Sharepont to committee members was evidently not enabled, so they had not seen the responses. They agreed they needed more time and more information to prepare a complete comparison of the plans.

Axiom and Sertex both propose a new town-wide system that would become town-owned. Spectrum, which already provides many China residents with broadband, telephone and/or television, would expand its existing network and continue to own it.

Spectrum has not indicated how long it would take to extend service. Sertex proposes complete installation in two years. Axiom proposes up to a year’s work after engineering plans are complete, a task committee member Jamie Pitney estimated would take a minimum of six months.

One item discussed at length was the cost to consumers, as well as it could be projected from available information. A subtopic was whether, if Spectrum were chosen, payment would come entirely from Spectrum customers, from local taxes or from a combination of the two.

Another major concern was how each company’s proposed technology would adapt to future technological changes, which consultants and committee members consider inevitable, and what if any additional costs would be generated.

If a proposal is to be presented at the June 8 town business meeting, committee members discussed whether they will have time to negotiate with the selected company and to explain their choice to voters. They considered postponing a ballot question to November.


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