TRENTON – With the formation of the city’s Broadband Committee two years ago, the committee and the Select Board have made efforts to extend Internet access to residents, especially those who are considered ‘last mile customers. “. This term refers to those who might receive internet service but whose internet providers say it will cost thousands of dollars to extend the wiring to their homes to connect them.
Funding for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) could potentially help connect these last mile customers, if approved by voters. But a recently awarded grant the committee requested from the Maine Community Foundation will help the city move beyond expanding Internet access.
“[It] will dig a little deeper into internet fairness [and] education, ”broadband committee chair and board member Rachel Nobel told Islander.
Another committee member, John Whetstone, helped Nobel navigate her poor internet connection when the pandemic forced her to start working from home in March 2020. Whetstone, who was a communications consultant and worked with the military American company to supply its satellite communication system, did a home survey of Nobel’s house and helped it place its router in a better location to optimize connectivity.
Examples like this helped committee members realize the obstacles residents may encounter – and tips for overcoming those obstacles, such as better router placement – when setting up their internet.
“We can use the Maine Community Foundation grant funding to do more of these home consultations,” Nobel said, adding that this type of service “really does give that personalized education.”
The funding, which amounts to $ 8,742, could also help recruit more experts and provide residents with access to training to improve their digital literacy and digital security.
At the municipal office, the funding will be used to obtain equipment to more easily broadcast municipal events and meetings in order to involve more people in the “local and democratic process”.
“There may be times, now or in the future, when [meeting] in person is not feasible, ”Nobel said.
Additionally, making equipment and support available locally can help residents feel more comfortable asking questions to improve their connectivity or participating in available trainings, Nobel said.
“We want to be able to be that resource. “
To let as many people as possible know about upcoming opportunities, and for those who don’t have access to Facebook, Nobel said the committee was reverting to “good old paper newsletters” to help spread the word.
“We are really excited,” Nobel said. “I am really proud of the Broadband Committee.
She noted that the committee began its work by developing a survey that asked residents about their connectivity needs.
The data and mapping collected from the nearly 300 respondents were particularly helpful in applying for a grant and showed that most of the city’s residents can be served by the Internet service provider Spectrum, and that only around 10% are identified as last mile customers.
City officials are compiling a list of possibilities ARPA funding could be directed to, with Trenton voters making the final decision at future undetermined city meetings.
Extending broadband to these last mile customers and securing a new deal with Spectrum with ARPA funds is a path the Broadband Committee is exploring, Nobel said.
On September 27, the city received $ 82,274.71 in its first ARPA funding installment, with the second payment slated for next year in roughly the same amount, City Clerk Carol Walsh said.
Residents who believe their route could be considered a last mile route are encouraged to contact Nobel at [email protected]