Federal grant awarded for broadband implementation in Franklin County

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A public broadband informational meeting held back in 2018.

FARMINGTON – The Northern Border Regional Commission announced last week that Greater Franklin Development Council has been awarded an Economic and Infrastructure Development grant to bring high-speed internet to six communities in Franklin County. The grant was awarded in response to a competitive application submitted by GFDC.

“We believe that this year’s awardees are among our strongest group thus far in Maine, and across all four Northern Border states,” NBRC said in a press release dated Aug. 20.

The $1 million award supports a project that will provide high-speed fiber optic internet for the towns of Carthage, Perkins, Temple, Washington Township, Weld and Wilton, seeking to improve the ability of residents to diversify the economy, work and learn from home, establish home-based businesses, reverse out-migration and attract new residents.

GFDC Executive Director Charlie Woodworth welcomed the announcement, saying that the funds would be used to support a public/private partnership.

“Our solution for the county recognizes the need to be a public/private partnership where towns share in the investment along with the internet service providers (ISPs),” Woodworth said as part of a prepared statement. “We are now ready to begin our very first implementation project and the $1,000,000 NBRC award will go towards reducing the town portion of the required investment.”

Woodworth said that GFDC was grateful for the recognition their project had received, including ConnectMaine Authority, DECD Commissioner Heather Johnson, Governor Janet Mills, the region’s federal delegation, state Senator Russell Black and Representatives Tina Riley, Scott Landry, Randy Hall and Tom Skolfield. Woodworth said that GFDC was also grateful to its consultant, Brian Lippold of Casco Bay Advisors.

“Brian’s deep industry knowledge and perspective have been essential to our progress,” Woodworth said.

The project would not be moving ahead without the dedication of each of the town selectpersons and the many citizens that have organized and are speaking up about the opportunity that broadband creates for their communities, Woodworth noted.

“This grant application recognizes the necessity of establishing public/private partnerships as viable solutions for our rural region,” Weld Selectboard Chair Tom Skolfield said. “This NBRC request is for 10 percent of the project cost with the remaining investment coming from the provider, towns and hopefully the state. We believe this project will be a model for how other areas in Maine can approach this funding challenge.”

The Franklin County Broadband Initiative began four years ago as a grassroots effort by citizens that identified inadequate broadband as preventing rural Franklin County from growing and succeeding. The nucleus of this group was The Opportunity Center of North Franklin County. Through deliberate outreach and many conversations, each of the 22 towns, including the Androscoggin County town of Livermore Falls, plus the 14 townships, came to support a county-wide broadband initiative aimed at competing with connected urban neighbors. The initiative has received planning support from each of the towns and townships, ConnectMaine, Maine Community Foundation and the county commissioners.

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