FAYETTE — The town is a step closer to having high-speed internet after residents voted at a special town meeting Tuesday to use COVID-19 pandemic relief funding and surplus money to help with potential internet setup costs.

About 95% of Fayette is considered “least served” by the Maine Connectivity Authority. This means connection speeds are slower than 25 megabits per second for downloads and 5 megabits per second for uploads.

It is also the slowest speed ranking by the organization, below “unserved” and “underserved.”

The town’s path toward having high-speed internet has been long and complex. In June, two questions were placed on the ballot asking if voters would either approve wireless internet through Redzone Wireless or a municipally owned service through Axiom. Both questions were rejected, with 235 no votes and 188 yes votes for Redzone and 265 no votes to 163 yes votes for Axiom.

Town Manager Mark Robinson said because the June ballot had two high-speed internet questions, the vote was fractured. Thus, the town’s November ballot included a question asking voters if they would approve applying for any federal, state or private funding sources that would pay the full cost of high-speed internet installation.

This question received overwhelming approval, with 572 in favor and 179 opposed.


Robinson said the question was put onto the ballot for help with applying to the Maine Connectivity Authority’s jumpstart program.

“The majority of the people supported high-speed internet, providing sources other than real-estate property taxes were used to pay for it,” Robinson said. “That was the entire purpose of that question.”

The Board Selectmen voted unanimously Jan. 31 to let Matrix Design Group construct a hub for fiber-optic equipment and devices on town-owned land. The board then voted to approve and sign a memorandum of understanding and endorsement letter of support with Matrix.

Chris Lynch, director of business development for Matrix Design Group’s New England Division, said the total project costs is expected to be about $4 million, with most of the funding coming from the Maine Connectivity Authority and Matrix.

If the connectivity authority’s grant is successful, it will have a tier for residents who qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program offering internet with an upload and a download speed of 50 megabits per second for $30 a month, and 100 Mbps symmetrical speeds for $59.99 a month. Lynch said those price levels could not be supported without the grant, adding the highest tier is to be offered at $199 a month.

“If the grant application is successful, Matrix hopes to start providing service in Fayette as quickly as 10 months from the grant approval, with full service to all residents completed by the end of 2024,” Lynch said.


Robinson said Thursday the town had yet to determine a location for the hub, adding there are several municipally owned sites near the Town Office that could work.

Matrix’s application to build a fiber network in Fayette has received conditional approval by the Maine Connectivity Authority, with final approval expected to be decided later this month.

The special town meeting Tuesday at Fayette Central School included two questions related to broadband. Robinson said the funding items were not directly connected to property taxes.

The first question asked if voters would allow the Board of Selectmen to use about $85,000 in COVID-19 pandemic relief funds for purposes “deemed best for the town of Fayette by the Board of Selectmen,” and the other question asked if residents would vote to transfer $50,000 from the town’s surplus account to the broadband reserve account.

The pandemic relief funds were tied to broadband and placed in the broadband reserve account following a vote in June 2021. The first question would give the board discretion over how to spend that money if the application were approved but not needed.

The $50,000 would also cover potential costs associated with broadband, totaling $135,000, when combined with the federal relief money. If the application is not approved, the money might be used to pursue a grant with another internet service provider.


“I suspect there will be needs relative to this in the future,” Robinson said, “even if the application is successful.”

Robinson said the money will not affect property taxes, but acknowledged some residents might say the $50,000 is money that had been raised in previous tax years.

“It’s not tied to this current tax year, and it’s not tied to the upcoming tax year,” Robinson said. “It is surplus.”

The Maine Connectivity Authority’s meeting regarding the Matrix application is scheduled for noon on Feb. 24. Those interested in viewing the Zoom broadcast can do so via the connectivity authority’s website.

“Over the next few weeks, we anxiously await what will hopefully be a positive outcome,” Robinson said.

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