The ConnectMaine Authority is working on a Federal NTIA grant application, aggregating a number of broadband projects that submitted RFI responses, providing information for this application. Somerville completed an RFI response and have been told we will be included in the grant application. That application to NTIA by ConnectMaine is due August 17th. We would know whether it will be funded on or about November 15, 2021.
POLE SURVEY (started 5/12)
The Broadband Committee is now working to gather specific information on every utility pole in town which will take several weeks. Please watch for them and don't be surprised if someone is taking photos of the utility poles. If your driveway is posted but has utility poles, we will need to survey those poles. So please expect them. There is no cost to the town to do this with volunteers, and it will prepare us to quickly request pole attachment licenses if adequate grant funding is received. That's important because the utility company has 7 months (1 for application processing and 6 to make poles ready) before we can start attaching fiber cable to the poles.
The design for Somerville's FTTP Broadband Network is available. Here is a map showing where the splice boxes and CO are, the trunk and lateral fiber cables, and where the network attachment points are and potential service locations.
The broadband survey has closed. Nina Hutchins was the winner of the drawing for a $100 cash gift card.
Question 1 passed by a vote of 49 yes, 45 no.
That means we can proceed with the next steps toward bringing quality, reliable high-speed internet to our town. The closeness of the vote also means there are voters still worried about the financing or the capabilities of this project.
The Broadband Committee and Board of Selectmen still have hard work ahead to ensure those worries are unfounded. That means securing sufficient State, County, and Federal funding assistance to make what the town must borrow an amount able to be safely paid off by internet service revenues from the customers we sign up. If successful in that, we still have much work to do ensuring the project delivers the quality high speed Internet our townspeople need and deserve to compete and fully participate in the economic, educational, and other opportunities of the modern age for many decades to come.
The grant application was submitted on April 29th. ConnectMaine asked for some additional detailed information which was provided on May 14th.
Unfortunately our score of 83 meant that the available funds were used on projects scoring above ours.
We are seeking a matching commitment from the County which would allow us to score higher on the fall ConnectMaine grant round, and also are in the running for potentially being funded as part of a ConnectMaine application to an NTIA grant.
Visit the Maine Broadband Coalition speed test, and click RUN SPEED TEST (red button).
A ConnectMaine grant would pay for 51.4% of the costs of the project.
American Rescue Plan (ARP) money received directly by the Town will likely be invested in the FTTH network construction, reducing how much the Town needs to borrow, and creating a greater margin of safety that broadband revenues will cover debt service. H.R. 1319 in Sec. 602(c)(1)(D) states "to make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure." Information from the Maine Municipal Association indicates Somerville's ARPA funding is expected to be $56,329 — half in the spring of 2021 and half in the spring of 2022. FYI, ARP funds are explicitly not allowed to be used to reduce taxes.
The Board of Selectmen have also written to the Lincoln County Commissioners asking for matching funding from the County's ARPA funds. The remaining town match would be financed by a Maine Municipal Bond Bank bond in Fall of 2021 at historically low interest rates, and for a number of years that will ensure debt service is a margin of safety below the revenue estimates.
Town revenues from internet service will be reserved for Broadband purposes, including paying the debt service.
Additional funding will be sought from other sources including foundation grants and fundraising.
We will know as soon as we know whether the Town will be awarded a grant, and details of ARPA funds to be received directly and via Lincoln County once known. The ConnectMaine results could be decided as soon as its May 26 meeting.
If approved, set up of the Central Office (the old Town Office room at Somerville School) would likely begin in November 2021, fiber trunks installed starting as soon as January 2022 and service drops to homes and businesses would begin as soon as February 2022. The aim is to get all subscribers connected by July 2022, or even by May if the weather cooperates.