Special Town Meeting Scheduled for Saturday October 1, 2022
The Vienna Selectboard has scheduled a Special Town Meeting for Saturday, October 1 at 9AM at the Vienna Community Center. At that time Vienna residents will vote on an article that authorizes the Selectboard to move forward on constructing and operating a municipally owned fiber to the home broadband network.
We have had an informational Meeting at the Community Center on Wednesday, August 31 and will have a public hearing on the article at the Community Center, Monday, September 19 at 6:30.
A recording and slide presentation of the August 31 meeting can be found here.
Broadband mailing list
Sign up here to be placed on our mailing list. Your email will not be shared. We will be sending out updates on the effort improve internet access for Vienna. It helps us demonstrate community support for this effort and attract Federal and State funding.
Broadband (high speed internet) is not available in Vienna. Our current choices of Internet access over the phone lines or dish antenna is the best we can get and this is about 1/10th the minimum speed the federal government defines as broadband. Many of our neighboring towns that have cable TV as an option are finding even that is too slow and unreliable for their current and future needs.
Fast, reliable and affordable Internet access (broadband) has become increasingly essential and will only be more so in the future. This was true even before the COVID pandemic which only served to emphasize this.
For over three years the Vienna Selectboard and the Vienna broadband committee have been exploring ways to secure broadband internet for Vienna. We initially worked with 5 other towns in our area to study what we currently had and possible ways for improvement. Eventually it was decided the best solution was to construct a fiber optic network that would be owned by Vienna and to contract out operations of that network to Axiom Technologies a company based in Machias.
The timing couldn't be better, as the Federal government is stepping up to help out un-served communities like ours. We will be applying for a sizeable grant that will pay upwards of 70% of the cost.
Broadband is important for:
- Education - remote classrooms, adult education, job training
- Jobs - working from home/home business
- Remote health - at home consulting with your doctor
- Social - maintaining connections to friends and relatives using video chat programs
- Banking/bill payment - more convenient and less time driving.
- Entertainment - Streaming TV channels, movies, music, games.
- Environment - reducing use of our cars saves us expensive fuel costs and reduces CO2 emissions for a healthier planet.
What are we doing to fix this problem?
Even before the pandemic, we in Vienna and neighboring towns recognized something needed to be done. Forming a coalition with 5 other towns (Mt. Vernon, Leeds, Readfield, Wayne, Fayette) we received state grant money to assess the situation and consider solutions. We examined what similar towns were doing both in Maine and in the rest of the US. It became evident that no private business was going to make the effort to provide affordable broadband in Vienna. There is simply not enough profit for them or it would have been done.
We found that small rural sparsely populated towns like Vienna are taking the initiative to do this themselves. They are building an infrastructure of fiber optic cable to all their residents and then partnering with an Internet service provider to manage that network. The federal government is encouraging this and is providing Maine around 300 million dollars to assist towns by way of infrastructure grants.
In January of 2022, a subset of the Western Kennebec Lakes Community Broadband Association sent out requests to vendors asking them to provide proposals for building and operating a fiber optic network. After evaluating the responses, the towns of Leeds, Wayne, Fayette and Vienna decided on building and owning a municipally owned network and to individually contract with Axiom Technologies to manage it's construction and operation.
Leeds has already funded construction through bonds, a town contribution and a $2.1 million grant from the Maine Connectivity Authority.
Vienna is positioned to receive a sizable grant from the state due to all the work we have already done and the fact that we are underserved.
- January 2021: on-line survey. 73 people responded. Results here
- February 2022 mailing survey results here
WKLCBA RFP - Nov. 2021 Fiber Optic Construction and Network Operations
The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.
The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
Listen to a good program on the broadband for Maine initiative with Senator Angus King here