June 23, 2022
Update on Broadband Internet Service
At our 2021 Town Meeting voters of the Town of Weld (“Town”) authorized the Selectboard to enter into negotiations with Matrix Design Group regarding a proposal for a private-public partnership that would provide an opportunity for very high-speed fiber optic internet service to every 911 address in Town. The proposed service would provide upload and download speeds of 100 Megabytes per second, providing all residents with fast and reliable internet service with monthly fees that are slightly more than service that is available from our current internet provider.
Key developments that have occurred since the 2021 Town Meeting are as follows:
- The Town of Wilton is moving ahead with plans for Matrix to provide service to currently underserved portions of that town, and Franklin County has agreed to move forward with providing the service to Washington and Perkins plantation.
- Residents from the towns of Temple and Carthage voted not to proceed with the proposal.
- The federal (Northern Boarders) grant awarded to support the project has been reduced from the $1M initially awarded to $660,000 to reflect the reduced scale of the project.
- An additional anticipated grant from the Connect Maine Authority was not awarded. The Greater Franklin Community Development office continues to seek additional funding from any state or federal initiatives that would reduce the cost to the Town and or subscribers.
- Legislation that will reduce monthly fees for income eligible subscribers has passed.
- Legislation that could prevent existing utilities from accessing municipalities fees for attachment to poles has been passed, but is likely to be challenged in court.
- Matrix and the Town of Weld executed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding memorializing the parties’ understanding to implement the Make-Ready Work for the Project.
- Recently, Matrix provided a draft version of the contract for this project between the Town and Matrix to the Selectboard to begin negotiations. The Selectboard and Town Counsel are currently reviewing the draft. The Selectboard will provide more information on the specifics on the contract at future informational meetings to be held on this matter (please see details below).
Matrix plans to mail a flyer to all 911 address in Town during the week of June 20, 2022 with a link and QR code to a website where those who are interested can “pre-subscribe” for the service. Matrix has also provided a “Kiosk” at the Town Office where residents who do not currently have internet access can pre-subscribe. Our Matrix representative Chris Lynch has confirmed that at pre-subscribing at this time is not a firm commitment. It does provide Matrix with an indication of the level of interest and enables them to establish direct communication with residents who are likely to subscribe.
Matrix will also be proceeding with a pole survey in the coming weeks that is intended to firm up the cost of “make-ready” work required to prepare the existing utility poles for installation of the fiber-optic network.
The Selectboard will schedule one or two informational meetings on this topic for later in the Summer, and final approval of the proposal is subject to a referendum vote of the registered voters of the Town, which will be scheduled following these meeting(s). We will provide more information on this site as it becomes available. In the meantime, do not hesitate to reach out directly to Chris Lynch of Matrix at 508-918-0478, or contact the Town Office if you have questions.