The Union Broadband Committee took another step toward bringing broadband infrastructure to the town at its June 10 meeting.

Currently, the committee is pursuing two options: the Midcoast Broadband Coalition and a private arrangement with LCI/Tidewater. Both of these avenues require a $5,000 investment.

The committee unanimously agreed to ask the Union Board of Selectmen to approve $5,000 for the coalition. This is the cost for Union to be included in the coalition’s feasibility study.

The board already approved the initial $5,000 for the LCI engineering study at a previous meeting.

Currently, the coalition consists of Camden, Hope, Lincolnville, Northport, Rockland, Rockport, South Thomaston and Thomaston.

Like the coalition, the committee’s goals is to get fiber infrastructure in place so residents can subscribe, just like electricity. They want high speed fiber broadband available across town to all residents.

Committee secretary John Gibbons said current choices for Union residents are Digital Subscriber Lines, cable internet and wireless internet. “Beyond that, there’s not much,” Gibbons said.

The broadband committee sent out a survey of Union residents a few months ago, and Gibbons said the bottom line was most people were not happy with their internet.

The biggest problems residents identified in the survey were low speed, low reliability and high cost.

Gibbons said the committee suspected the high cost was not because the dollar amount was too high, but that residents did not feel they were getting the services they were paying for.

Committee chair and Board of Selectmen member Adam Fuller emphasized that the committee was not aiming for a subsidized municipal broadband, but instead to have the option available for residents to subscribe.

While the committee is investigating both options, they have not committed to either yet.

Gibbons said neither LCI nor the coalition gave them a definitive timeline, but he suspected both would have information for the committee around August or September.

Fuller said he was glad to hear both LCI and the broadband coalition were on similar timelines, so the committee would be able to compare the two choices.

“Realistically, I don’t see us continuing to follow both options once these studies are done,” Fuller said. “We want to have both options in our hands to show the voters.”

Both options will involve pursuing grants to help pay for installing the infrastructure as well.

Gibbons said the criteria for the definition of underserved internet customers was recently changed to 50/10. This means internet users must have an access speed of less than 50 megabytes per second downloading and 10 megabytes per second uploading to be considered underserved.

This change in criteria will open much more of Union to these grants, Gibbons said.

Committee member Holly Savage pointed out it was possible the committee would spend this $5,000 with the coalition and discover the town would not be included in the phase one group of towns that will get the first broadband infrastructure.

Gibbons said he felt confident that if Union did not make the cut as a phase one town, the committee would no longer be interested in pursuing the Midcoast Broadband Coalition and would instead continue with LCI.

Fuller said the committee was not committing anything beyond the $5,000 for each group’s study. Down the road, the committee would know they invested equally in both options to find out with one was best for the town.

The next broadband committee meeting is scheduled for June 29 and will be held over Zoom.

The agenda and meeting information can be found on the town’s website.