At their Nov. 17 meeting, China Broadband Committee (CBC) members continued exploring options for funding better internet service for China residents, after voters said no to borrowing money through a town-issued bond.
At their Nov. 4 meeting, the main alternatives considered were seeking an arrangement with other towns or continuing to develop a China-only service (see The Town Line, Nov. 11, p. 3). As the meeting ended, Axiom Technologies President Mark Ouellette said he would look for possible sources of financing, government or private.
Private investors seem more likely, because, Ouellette and committee member Jamie Pitney agreed on Nov. 17, state and federal funds are aimed mainly at unserved populations. They could not find that improving slow or unreliable service qualified for government funding.
Only an estimated five percent of China residents get no internet service to their houses. The majority are served by Spectrum or Consolidated Communications.
CBC members consider that neither company provides adequate service for contemporary needs. So far, neither has offered an upgrade that committee members have found acceptable.
Ouellette suggested a useful activity to begin as soon as possible: asking residents to check the speed of their internet systems and report results, to help evaluate current providers. Information on running tests and forwarding results will be publicized. Testing is as simple as finding the phrase “internet speed test” on the web and following the directions.
Ouellette has worked with other towns where private investment has made expanded internet possible through Axiom. The possibility of such an arrangement for China is “generally positive,” he said, but he had no specific plan to report.
Based on other towns’ experience, he advised trying to find investors in the Town of China, who will accept a low rate of return in order to benefit their neighbors.
Organizational possibilities were mentioned. Pitney cited an intertown nonprofit created to provide ambulance service. Ouellette knew of a four-town utility district.
Committee member Tod Detre suggested CBC members form a nonprofit organization and ask for money through one of the crowdfunding platforms on the web.
Ouellette and Piney intended to schedule an appointment with the acting head of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), the state agency that promotes business development, to see if China qualifies for help there.
CBC Chairman Robert O’Connor and others planned to attend the Nov. 22 select board meeting, where O’Connor said board members were scheduled to hear a presentation from a wireless internet provider.
Pending information on FAME and the select board meeting, CBC members postponed scheduling their next meeting.