In this article, we will delve into the topic of broadband connectivity in Readfield, Maine. Specifically, we will discuss the efforts made by the West Kennebec Lakes Group to improve internet access in the area. We will also explore the role of Casco Bay Advisors, a consulting firm specializing in municipal projects, in assisting with this endeavor. By the end of this article, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the existing infrastructure, potential service providers, and the financial implications of implementing a municipal-owned fiber network in Readfield.
The Role of Casco Bay Advisors
Casco Bay Advisors is a consulting firm that works closely with municipalities and county governments to address their technological needs. While they also provide services to service providers in terms of network planning and engineering studies, the majority of their business is focused on assisting local governments. Their expertise spans the entire spectrum of broadband projects, from initial feasibility studies to market analysis, planning, design, and engineering. Additionally, they offer valuable insights on facilitating public-private partnerships. It is important to note that Casco Bay Advisors does not build or operate networks; instead, they serve as advocates and advisors for communities struggling with broadband challenges.
Understanding the Broadband Study
The West Kennebec Lakes Group initiated a broadband study to assess the current state of internet infrastructure in the area. The study was partially funded, with two main phases: phase one and phase two. Phase one involved a field audit to determine the extent of existing infrastructure, particularly cable TV infrastructure. Casco Bay Advisors conducted a comprehensive survey of the Readfield region to identify homes and areas served by this infrastructure. The information obtained was then input into a mapping system, which allowed them to outline the segments of road that were served and unserved.
To supplement this data, potential subscriber locations were plotted using the 911 data provided by the state of Maine. However, it was discovered that the 911 data was not always accurate or complete. To overcome this obstacle, additional analysis was conducted by overlaying the 911 data onto imagery to identify potential subscribers without an associated address. In total, 1,248 potential subscriber locations were identified in Readfield. It is important to acknowledge that this number may not be entirely accurate due to the limitations of the process. Nonetheless, it provides a close estimate of the broadband demand in the area.
Engaging Potential Service Providers
After completing the broadband study, Casco Bay Advisors reached out to several potential service providers operating in Maine. They began by contacting the cable and phone companies, which are typically the most cost-effective options for expanding coverage or upgrading infrastructure. However, Charter Spectrum and Consolidated Communications were unresponsive and did not express interest in collaborating. Other providers, such as GWI, Pioneer Broadband, and Axiom, demonstrated interest but required more clarity on the goals and vision of the six-town group.
Red Zone Wireless, a wireless service provider, was also considered. However, limited tower infrastructure in the area posed a challenge to achieving extensive coverage. Matrix, a New Jersey-based company experienced in network build-outs, expressed interest in serving Fayette and Vienna, as these towns lacked cable infrastructure. Matrix proposed a project that included adjacent areas and required the towns to cover utility pole expenses, with Matrix funding 70% of the overall project cost. However, a proposal for all six towns, regardless of cable availability, has yet to be submitted.
Reedfield’s Potential Municipal-Owned Fiber Network
While working with the West Kennebec Lakes Group, Reedfield individually approached Casco Bay Advisors to explore the possibility of a municipal-owned fiber network. Before proceeding, Casco Bay Advisors suggested assessing the financial sustainability of such a network by considering different levels of take rate, service pricing, and debt financing options. In this regard, Casco Bay Advisors produced a financial performer to estimate the potential cost of the network.
According to the financial performer, building a fiber network in Reedfield could range from $4 million to $4.8 million. The estimate factored in the existing cable TV infrastructure, estimated miles of fiber construction, number of utility poles, and historical averages. It is crucial to note that this estimate is preliminary and not an engineered solution. As the project progresses, these figures are likely to change, warranting further analysis.
In conclusion, the efforts made by the West Kennebec Lakes Group and Casco Bay Advisors have shed light on the broadband situation in Readfield, Maine. The comprehensive broadband study conducted by Casco Bay Advisors supplied valuable information regarding the existing infrastructure and potential subscriber locations. By engaging with various service providers, they explored the viability of collaborating to address the connectivity challenges faced by the community. Additionally, the exploration of a municipal-owned fiber network offered an alternative solution to improve broadband access. As community stakeholders continue to strategize and evaluate their options, it is hoped that Readfield will benefit from improved broadband connectivity in the near future.