News Feature

Originally published in The Weekly Packet, September 30, 2021
Brooklin and Sedgwick voters to weigh in on broadband agreement

On Tuesday, October 21, voters in Brooklin and Sedgwick can take the first step in creating a community-owned, not-for-profit, high-speed internet access network based on fiberoptic technology that can deliver a synchronous 1-gigabit connection to every home and business that chooses to subscribe, according to a press release.

The select boards of Brooklin and Sedgwick have unanimously endorsed the project and an interlocal agreement to bring the towns affordable, faster and better broadband services, while also exploring options for collaborating with an existing provider if they meet 100 percent coverage for both towns and take advantage of available federal and state dollars.

The Town of Sedgwick will hold an information session and public hearing regarding the proposed interlocal broadband greement on Thursday, October 7, at 7 p.m., at the Sedgwick Town Office. The Town of Brooklin will also hold its information session and public hearing at the Brooklin School gym, also on October 7, at 7 p.m.

Then, on Thursday, October 21, at 7 p.m., special town meetings will be held in each town to vote on an article authorizing select board members to sign that agreement. A copy of the proposed interlocal broadband agreement will be available at the town offices after Thursday, September 30. Warrant articles will be posted two weeks in advance of the special town meetings to authorize the select board in each town to enter an interlocal agreement to form the non-profit Rural Broadband Access Corporation (RBAC), with the express purpose to design, finance, build and partner for the delivery of fiber optic broadband services to all residents and businesses in the participating towns.

The agreement would enable but not irrevocably commit both towns to work together to take advantage of time-sensitive opportunities and pursue goals related to education, telehealth, economic development/remote work, civic/cultural participation, and the general need for each home and business to have high-speed fiber broadband network access.

“The Towns have been working together on road projects, harbor definitions, trash disposal, bridge replacement projects, and continue to define other projects where cooperation is beneficial,” said Sedgwick Select Board Chair Ben Astbury.

The release notes that RBAC and its associated fiber optic network will be funded with federal and state infrastructure grants, along with private investment, in cooperation with the state’s premier lending institutions for lines of credit, loans and revenue bonds without guarantees by the towns or recourse to taxpayers.

Asbury added, “Creating this community municipal utility would have no tax impact on residents or businesses.”

Brooklin Select Board Chair Bill Cohen added, “Ensuring that all homes and businesses have access to state-of-the-art connectivity, at an affordable price, has been and continues to be the focus,” according to the release. “The interlocal agreement is the result of years of diligent work by Brooklin and Sedgwick residents, our broadband committees, and our Select Board members, who have focused on bringing broadband to our region without raising taxes.”

Astbury said, “We see the municipal utility and its high-speed fiber broadband network expanding opportunities for economic development along with the demonstrated benefits for telehealth, remote work, and online education.”

When approved, the community-owned municipal utility will be composed of the charter towns of Brooklin and Sedgwick. Other towns in Hancock County will be added through interlocal agreement and based on a phased build and scheduled service rollout.

The RBAC internet fiber network will be “open access,” with multiple internet service providers delivering best-in-class connectivity at affordable prices.