Lincolnville's Broadband Committee wants to hear from residents about their current access to internet service.

Broadband uses fiber-optic cable to provide high-speed internet, streaming and other services.

Committee member Josh Gerritsen said there couldn't be a better time to do a broadband survey.

"It's a matter of livelihood and education for people to have a connection. The pandemic is shining a light on our internet needs now and in the future. Our needs for ever greater bandwidth will only grow," he said.

The Lincolnville Broadband Access survey asks residents if internet access is important to them; satisfaction with current service; if anyone works from home or uses the internet for school; and more. Residents are asked if internet speed negatively impacts a wide range of uses, from streaming movies and television shows to working and online education. The survey also provides space for comments and suggestions.

So far nearly 200 residents have responded to the survey and the committee would like to hear from many more, Gerritsen said. He said the committee is getting great comments from the surveys.

The committee is also considering mailing surveys to reach more residents, he said.

He emphasized that the committee and Board of Selectmen want to hear from residents and have not expressed their opinions or discussed proposals of their own.

Committee members are also looking into what other towns are doing. Camden and Rockport have formed a committee to explore expanding broadband, many other towns are doing something similar and Islesboro has built their own broadband system for all island residents.

Lincolnville is in a unique position for a rural coastal town: it already has 41 miles of fiber optic cable running through the town, providing 1,020 households with access to high internet services. Local internet and telephone company LCI owns the fiber optic cable and provides the services.

The Broadband Committee was formed in December 2019, after LCI asked town officials to work together to expand  broadband internet service to all Lincolnville residents.

The company wants to lay another 26 miles of fiber optic cable to provide access to approximately 338 households with older copper wire technology or no internet service.

To accomplish this, LCI asked town officials to assist in two areas. One is supporting the company's application for a ConnectMe state grant, by helping obtain signatures on a petition from at least 50% of the 338 households. The other area involves asking residents interested in fiber optic service to fill out pre-applications with LCI. The ConnectME grant and pre-applications would help the company finance the costly work of laying fiber optic cable and connecting households.

Selectmen supported the idea of exploring broadband expansion. They did not make any decision on working with LCI, and decided the first step was to hear from residents before moving forward.

A number of selectmen balked at assisting LCI, without first hearing from residents, due to awareness that numerous residents are dissatisfied with the company's services. The dissatisfaction comes from customers using the older copper wire technology, according to an LCI representative.

LCI was originally the Lincolnville Telephone Company and was founded in 1904. The company website explains that LTC's current family of companies include LCI, the largest provider of "fiber to the premises services," and Tidewater Telephone.