Submitted by Samantha Peaslee
SOMERVILLE, ME — The Town of Somerville will receive grant funding from the US National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), an arm of the federal Department of Commerce, along with additional funding and support from the state’s ConnectMaine authority, to construct a municipally-owned broadband internet system able to connect to every home and business in town. The fiber-to-the-home internet system will be built and operated by Axiom Technologies, a Maine-based internet provider, under construction and franchise agreements to be signed with the town. No property tax revenue nor municipal debt will be needed to finance construction of the network. Once in operation, revenues from subscribers to the town’s system will be used to maintain and enhance the network in the future.
“I am thrilled that roughly a year from now Somerville will offer fast, reliable internet to anyone in town who wants it. For-profit internet providers have consistently indicated they had no interest in investing to provide modern competitive Internet service in small rural towns like Somerville, because denser communities are more profitable for them,” said Chris Johnson, Chairman of Somerville’s Select Board. “Here, with funding from NTIA and ConnectMaine, and expertise from Axiom Technologies, Somerville is building its own fiber network and will invest our share of ratepayer revenue back into future improvements.” The NTIA grant, to be administered by ConnectMaine, also awarded funds to roll out broadband to underserved areas in the neighboring towns of Washington and Jefferson.
Jim Grenier, the Chairman of the Somerville Broadband Committee, added, “This wonderful news is the result of the efforts by many town volunteers and supporters who have spent years seeking an affordable solution to the town’s lack of fast internet service. As well, the Island Institute has supported Somerville in getting this project off the ground and Axiom has been a capable and committed partner.”
Pricing for the service, which will offer a choice of different tiers of speeds, such as 25/25 and 100/100 Mbps, and can go up to 10 Gigabit per second for customers who need it, will be cost competitive with other broadband offers in Northern New England. Low-income residents will be eligible for additional monthly financial assistance through the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, which lowers the cost of high-speed internet to those households.
Construction in Somerville is expected to begin later this year starting with the Central Office. Fiber network construction will begin once the Maine Public Utilities Commission required process to arrange for attaching new fiber cables to existing utility poles in town has been approved and the utilities have made poles ready for our attachment. Final installation and service should roll out to Somerville residents beginning in the spring of 2023. Customers who sign up in advance for internet service by putting down a small deposit will receive free installation to their premise.
The town will soon provide more information to residents on pricing as well as how to sign up for service and free installation.
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