Alton, ME Voters Approve $150,000 to Expand Fiber Broadband to All Town Locations

Alton, ME Voters Approve $150,000 to Expand Fiber Broadband to All Town Locations
This municipal broadband project is to be a collaboration between OTELCO, the Town of Alton and the ConnectME Authority

ALTON and NEW GLOUCESTER, ME (April 4, 2019) – OTELCO, the incumbent telecommunications provider to the Town of Alton, is pleased to announce that it will proceed with a collaboration that will allow the company to build a town-wide broadband network. At the Annual Town Meeting, held on March 30th, Alton voters nearly unanimously approved the appropriation of $150,000 to expand fiber broadband to all 329 locations in Town. Alton’s contribution to the broadband project will be funded by the Juniper Ridge Fund that is furnished by tipping fees from the Juniper Ridge Landfill in Old Town.

OTELCO will be investing $290,000 toward the project, and both the Town’s investment and OTELCO’s are contingent on a successful $260,000 grant application by OTELCO to the ConnectME Authority.

Currently, OTELCO has fiber-to-the-premise (FTTP) available to 69 of the 329 locations in Alton, a project that began in 2017 and was partially funded by a ConnectME Authority grant.

Alton Town Administrator, Ron Borja, explained that “Once word spread that OTELCO completed the fiber build to the 69 locations at the north end of town along the Bennoch Road, we saw a situation of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’ Aside from the quality of life and place that fiber broadband offers our citizens, we feel that its availability is also a major factor in the town’s economic development.” Borja noted that the Town’s proximity to I-95 and Bangor along with its low tax rate are three important elements for potential business development, and that broadband connectivity is equally important.

OTELCO’s initial build on Bennoch Road was funded in part by a ConnectME grant and required that there be municipal support for the project. “When the town reached out OTELCO a year or so after the Bennoch Road project to see how we could facilitate building to the rest of the town, I explained that we had no immediate construction plans for Alton, but that we could look at some kind of financial collaboration,” said OTELCO Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Tracy Scheckel. “Ron explained that a majority of the Select Board was serious about town-wide FTTP and asked us to develop a budget estimate.”

“When OTELCO provided a budget estimate of $700,000 and suggested a three-way funding model including a grant from the ConnectME Authority, things began to come together,” commented Alton Select Board Chair, John Belding. “The Town of Alton has the benefit of the Juniper Ridge Fund for projects like this, and we didn’t have to impact property taxes with the appropriation.”

With the affirmative vote of the $150,000 appropriation, OTELCO will now apply to the ConnectME Authority in the upcoming grant round. Assuming the application is successful, and the grant is awarded, network construction will commence in the spring of 2019 and be complete in approximately 6 months.