Commitment to bring broadband in 2024
BAR HARBOR—The Bar Harbor Town Council at its Tuesday meeting unanimously voted to enter a contract with Consolidated Communications to build out a dark fiber network for the town, schools, library and to include a connection to the Town of Mount Desert.
Bar Harbor’s Technology Systems Administrator Steve Cornell told council members about Consolidated, “I am very happy with them as a provider.” The town’s communications committee recommended the day before that the town sign the contract. The contract is not for broadband, but it does include a broadband component. The town needs to have broadband, Cornell said.
According to Town Manager Kevin Sutherland’s council packet memo to councilors,
“After several months of conversation, Consolidated Communications (CCI) will build out a leased network for the town (with connection to the Town of Mount Desert) for $372,329. This is substantially below the previously approved bond amount of up to $750,000, but it does come with a $114 monthly expense per drop location—totaling $2,850 a month for all sites.
“In addition, should the Council authorize us to move forward with this contract, CCI has agreed to partner with and assist the Town in applying for grant monies to further build out Fidium to the under/unserved parts of Bar Harbor.”
Fidium is Consolidated Communications’ fiber gigabit consumer broadband service.
First, the town’s contract leases a town network from Consolidated to connect up town facilities. It’s a dark fiber network to pass data between facilities and to the town of Mount Desert.
Broadband is internet access with a high-speed internet connection. There’s a minimum of 25 Mpbs download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. It can be offered via fiber optics, cable, DSL, satellite or wireless.
A dark fiber network is usually used in network and telecom communication. It can be set up from point-to-point or as multi-point and allows businesses or governments more control over the infrastructure of their networks, allowing secure and fast internet capabilities and movement of large amounts of data.
The town currently has a dark fiber network with Spectrum. That contract has expired. The new monthly cost would be $2,445 because the Town of Mount Desert will pay a small part of the fees. The library and schools would also be connected and pay for monthly fees as well. Internet access is outside of the private network, but the dark fiber network is controlled entirely by the town.
“This is crucial. It will allow the two towns to connect up,” Cornell said. He added that police officers who have to do high-data tasks in the combined department of Bar Harbor and Mount Desert don’t currently have the ability to send that data between town locations, so police officers have to drive between towns to do so. In the Comprehensive Plan materials, a joint new-build police department is mentioned as a future need.
Beth McCarthy of Consolidated said that in 2024 the company would come in and build in fiber to the home in the downtown and that’s a written commitment but not part of the current contract. That usually requires just an over lashing of current cables on poles because the company already has services on the poles. In 2023, Consolidated hopes to sit down with the town and plan to determine where they would cover. It would be a $1.5 million investment, she said. Then they would apply for grants with the town to survey the entire town, hopefully providing the connections to underserved areas.
Councilor Matthew Hochman said, “It could also kick-start other providers to come in to those underserved areas.” He said if they did the project eight years ago, when they first discussed it, the town would own its own network now. The town originally wanted to build its own dark fiber network and offer broadband to its residents.
“Those projects got conflated and killed,” Cornell said.
There were few bidders on the work, Cornell said because of supply chain issues and a lack of interest. He emphasized that he enjoyed working with Consolidated.
WEBSITE WORK GROUP
The Town Council quickly appointed Hochman (7-0) to the town’s website redesign team, which consists of Cornell, Communications Coordinator Maya Caines, and Todd Edgar despite initial concerns from Councilor Jill Goldthwait that all the committee members were web savvy. The website redesign is meant to make it easier for visits to the town’s website, which has been categorized as cumbersome and counterintuitive.
Caines assured Goldthwait that there would be a public comment and input period.
EMERGENCY OPERATIONS PLAN
Fire Chief Matt Bartlett and Town Clerk Liz Graves submitted a revised emergency operations plan, which basically mirrors the Hancock County Emergency Management Plan, Bartlett said.
Members of the council expressed concern that there weren’t hurricane and drought components to the plan. Bartlett said that because of historical data they aren’t considered big risks. Sutherland said that they will talk about hurricanes and drought with the County Hazard Mitigation Plan team. Graves said that they can add back into the plan town resources about drought and hurricanes. The last plan was twenty years old, Bartlett said. He said they’d want to update it annually.
OPEN TABLE MDI
A request for Open Table MDI to close Maple Street between Cottage Street and Brewer Avenue from 12 to 3 on November 11 was approved by the council at its meeting.
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