VIENNA — More than 1,700 utility poles in town need be assessed for whether they are compatible with fiber-optic cables as part of the next step in the ongoing $2.6 million project to bring fast and reliable internet connectivity to residents and businesses.

That update came during a meeting Tuesday at which selectmen and officials from the broadband company Axiom updated residents on the project that is still at least a year from completion.

Based on a survey, new utility poles might be needed, officials said, or work might be done on the existing poles.

“That is the first step, yes. That could begin shortly, but we don’t have a definite timeline yet because we have not found the contract yet,” Selectmen Laura Church said. “But our goal is to get started on it as soon as possible.”

The contract Church mentioned is the agreement between the town and Axiom that is lacking signatures. The agreement is not signed because the papers for a $2.2 million grant awarded to the town are also awaiting signatures, and without the grant, the project cannot move forward.

Church said even though Vienna was awarded the grant, the federal government requested changes to the language, which has delayed the process.


“It is very frustrating,” Church said, “but our town attorney is working hard to get it done.”

Even after that, the process is long and will take almost another year before residents have in-house service, Axiom CEO Mark Ouellette said during the meeting.

Once the state grant is signed, the town can withdraw funds and start a survey of the utility poles that is expected to take nearly six months. After the survey is completed, the company is expected to begin the construction phase, which involves laying fiber in town.

Officials from Axiom could not be reached for a comment.

The broadband company has yet to begin taking calls regarding subscriptions. Officials hope to do so halfway through the pole survey process, in about three months.

“Three months from now, we will know when that work is expected to be completed,” Ouellette said, “and from that, we can extrapolate when we think the construction is going to begin and when service will be provided.”


The project began months ago, after residents asked the town to address slow internet connectivity that was hindering access to education and telemedicine and making it difficult to work from home or run a small business.

A 2022 townwide survey found that most residents were using internet services provided via DSL by Consolidated Communications that offered low speeds, ranging from 3 to 25 megabits per second.

An improvement became possible when the town was awarded a $2.2 million grant by the Maine Connectivity Authority to provide high-speed internet. Residents voted to establish a broadband authority in March, which has been overseeing the process.

The grant money is to fund much of the $2.6 million project. The town will pay the remaining $400,000.

“We will pay from our reserves,” Church said, “but we have made it a point to put that money back eventually.”

A $15 portion of the subscription fees that residents will pay will go back to the town’s reserve funds.

Axiom has a first-come-first-served model for the project to provide free installations to 270 residents, but will entertain more requests than that.

“The project is modeled that way, but if we receive more requests than 270, which is 70% of our population, it will be a good problem to have,” Church said. “We will discuss and figure out a way to accommodate those requests, too. I will be very excited once it is up and running because it will make a huge difference for the town and its residents.”

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