BOWDOINHAM — Bowdoinham residents coping with lagging internet speeds could start to see that change later this year.

The town partnered with Lincolnville Communications to design and engineer a fiber network to provide broadband internet to the unserved or areas that lack high-speed access, which the company estimates is 195 homes. Representatives from the company laid out long- and short-term goals for the project at Bowdoinham’s selectboard meeting Tuesday.

“One of the things that became clear to us was we need some results pretty quickly,” said Alan Hinsey, Linconville’s communications and sales director. “We looked at ways using existing infrastructure.”

Hinsey said leasing space and equipment from companies with lines in nearby towns was cost prohibitive in many cases, and the best option would be leasing from Consolidated Communications in Richmond to get homes connected at first. That would come at a $2,500 monthly cost for to operate and $30,500 annually.

The longterm cost to expand fiber networks to the underserved areas of Bowdoinham would be $443,000, with an additional $137,000 in installation cost. For the company, there’s motivation to build fiber out to potential new customers, as the lines would run in front of an additional 410 homes outside of Bowdoinham. The cost of a basic internet plan is $49.99 per month.

Hinsey said the company estimates it usually gets about 50 percent of underserved homes as new customers. The company would own the lines, partnering with Bowdoinham to help underserved areas. Selectmen will decide at their next meeting whether to move forward with Lincolnville Communications.

Bowdoinham Town Manager Bill Post noted it hasn’t been easy to find a reliable provider willing to expand service in the area. Companies are reluctant to expand to rural areas due to the cost of infrastructure to add a limited amount of customers.

“This has been a long process to find a partner,” said Post. “It’s a local company, they’re responsive. If you have an issue you can even drive there and let them know.”

To fund the project, the town would apply for a ConnectMe infrastructure grant in May. Hinsey cautioned that there is only $475,000 available in infrastructure grants, but with the planning and cost estimates in place, Bowdoinham has a strong case to get a sizeable grant. Selectmen have also dedicated some tax increment financing funds to match grant money.

Initial work on the project could begin within the year, according to Hinsey, but it will depend on the funding the town is able to get in place before starting. Bowdoinham and Lincolnville partnered together in July to map out a plan for the town. ConnectME awarded the town a $40,000 grant in July 2018 for engineering work.

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