Boothbay selectmen still exploring options for better internet

Board reviewed consultant’s report studying region’s broadband access
Wed, 06/05/2019 - 8:30am

A consultant is advising municipal leaders that fiber presents the best long term option for current and future broadband internet needs. Boothbay selectmen reviewed Tom Myette’s report May 29 during a special workshop to discuss the region’s internet access. 

Selectmen hired Myette, who owns OmniHelios, LLC, in March to study the region’s internet capability and make recommendations for short and long term needs. Myette spent 40 hours interviewing local businesses and researching how well the region was served. In his report delivered in May, Myette concluded the region overall wasn’t “underserved,” but there were some problems. Among those problems, residential customers were paying high rates for poor service. 

A week after Myette delivered his report, Boothbay selectmen reviewed his suggestions during a workshop. During the 75-minute session, selectmen decided  to further explore options Myette presented. Selectmen agreed fiber is the fastest and most reliable option available, but they had reservations about the cost. “Coverage is generally pretty good, but as a residential customer I can set my clock for when my service drops for few minutes,” said Selectman Steve Lewis. “But I don’t know that makes it grossly unreliable. I still think we need more information.”

Myette’s report showed large businesses had the best broadband fiber connections. He cited Boothbay businesses Washburn & Doughty, Boothbay Harbor Country Club, Bigelow Laboratories and Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens as securing high speed internet through fiber through negotiations with local providers. Myette advised teaming up with local businesses in negotiating better access for the entire community. He also wants the two towns to combine forces in renegotiating a more favorable franchise agreement with local providers.

For this, Boothbay selectmen discussed seeking assistance from the Island Institute or Connect Maine in finding an experienced franchise agreement negotiator.  “What we have is adequate for now, but what about the future. We need somebody who knows what’s out there and point out what we might need,” said Lewis. 

Following the meeting, Boothbay Town Manager Dan Bryer said the next step in the broadband discussion was exploring Myette’s recommendations. “Fiber is fast and reliable, but it’s also expensive. We need to explore what’s out there and make sure it’s right for now and in the future,” he said. 

Boothbay selectmen discussed hiring a consultant and holding a workshop to evaluate their current and future options. The two towns used $2,000 from a $7,500 Maine Community Foundation grant to pay for Myette’s services. Selectman Kristina Ford spoke with Boothbay Harbor officials about how to proceed with future broadband internet access plans.