Selectmen question LCI plan to expand fiber optic service

By Susan Mustapich | Dec 10, 2019

LINCOLNVILLE — The Board of Selectmen want to hear from residents about a proposal from local internet provider LCI to expand fiber optic cable to every household in the town.

Board members agreed that having fiber optic access to every household in Lincolnville would be a major benefit, but some said they have heard many residents are dissatisfied and frustrated with LCI's service.

They decided Dec. 9 to form an ad hoc committee to seek out public opinion. The focus of the committee is to educate residents about the services they already have access to and to seek their opinions on LCI's current services and whether town government should help the company with its fiber optic expansion.

Selectmen also discussed how Lincolnville is in a unique position, because LCI has run 41 miles of fiber optic through the town, providing 1,020 households with access to high speed data, voice and video services.

Selectman Josh Gerritsen called it a "no brainer" for the town to work with LCI in some fashion," while questioning if the town should "spend taxpayer's dollars to help a private entity to install fiber so they can make more money."

Selectman Keryn Laite said he agreed with Gerritsen's comment, but raised the issue of resident dissatisfaction with LCI.

Laite said he has heard a lot of opposition out in the community to LCI, "because of the current service they are providing, not to mention the pricing. The taxpayers of this town should be involved with a yea or nay on this." He estimated that at least half of the people in Lincolnville are not happy with LCI.

Selectman Ladleah Dunn said she "was struck by how many of the town's citizens who have access to fiber optic are not aware it is running by their property." She called for a committee to educate residents about services available to them and seek their opinions on LCI. She compared discussion about partnering financially with LCI  as putting the cart before the horse.

Selectman Jon Fishman asked about competition to LCI. Board members agreed that there is none due to the cost of running fiber optic line and that LCI has a significant head start in Lincolnville.

Town Administrator David Kinney clarified that “There's no prohibition to another company coming in."

Kinney said that in meetings with other town managers to discuss access to fiber optic, also called broadband, he has seen how the other towns are impressed with how much fiber Lincolnville already has and want to know how they got it.

He said putting resident dissatisfaction aside for a moment, “The amount of fiber that's in Lincolnville is the envy of a lot of communities right now. If you could get to 100 percent, that's good for the town. It's an opportunity to not necessarily jump in with both feet but to get that dialog going," Kinney said.

On Nov. 12, LCI Marketing and Sales Director Alan Hinsey gave a presentation at the Selectmen's meeting. He explained that the 41 miles of fiber optic cable running through Lincolnville, pass 1,020 or 75 percent of Lincolnville's 1,358 households. Of those 1,020 household, 46 percent are current customers of LCI O.P.E.N. fiber network, he said. Another 542 households have the option of connecting to the fiber optic service.

Hinsey said that unlike other Internet services, fiber optic speeds are not diminished by the number of users on a line, or by distance. LCI offers a 50-megabit per second (mbps) download and 10-mbps upload service, and a 100-mbps download and 20-mbps upload service.

Hinsey invited town officials to work with LCI on a plan to extend fiber another 26 miles in Lincolnville, to the remaining 340 households in the town. These households are considered to have inadequate Internet service or no service, he said. Town support would involve officials endorsing LCI's plan and assisting the company in obtaining a state grant that pays about 20 percent of the cost of connecting households to the fiber optic line.

The town would be asked to help with obtaining signatures on a petition supporting the proposal from at least 50 percent of the 340 households, as well as asking those residents interested in fiber optic service to fill out pre-applications with LCI. The combination of LCI, town government and resident support raises the chance of obtaining a state Connect Me grant, Hinsey said.

The cost is of the 26-mile fiber expansion is $650,000 over a four-year period, Hinsey said. The cost to LCI to connect a household to fiber, once it is laid, is about $1,000, he said. The Connect Me grant would help reduce that cost to the company to about $500, he said. If the community wanted fiber optic connections completed within two years, additional grants, or funding sources would be needed, Hinsey explained. On the other hand, the company could proceed on a four-year plan on its own, he said.

When asked why less than 50 of Lincolnville residents with access to fiber have the O.P.E.N. fiber network service, Hinsey said, Dec. 10 that the company could be doing more marketing. He said one reason for working with the town is to make sure everyone knows what's available.

“We would be marketing along with the town,” he said. Hinsey added that LCI has provided the town with a new map, so anyone can see where fiber is located now.

Hinsey said LCI does not get many complaints when people are installed and hooked up to the fiber network. The complaints come from customers on the older DSL networks that use copper wire, he said, because copper is less reliable, and service slows when the customer is farther from a distribution node.

“The sooner we can get them all on fiber optics, the happier they will be too,” he said.

Prior to the Dec. 9 meeting, Kinney explained that Lincolnville's town government does not have franchise agreements with, or regulatory control over, any Internet service provider. While it has a contract with LCI for cable television, that contract is non-exclusive, he said. Other companies providing Internet services can bring their technology to Lincolnville, he said.

Kinney described the map of LCI's fiber optic cable as radiating out from the town along most of its major connecting roads, including Route 1, the large majority of Route 52, Beach Road, Slab City Road and others.

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.

Editor's note: The explanation of LCI's upload and download speeds has been corrected to megabits per second.

Comments (2)
Posted by: ananur forma | Dec 11, 2019 10:37

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ljLynbr5iPc&list=PLv-JwDT9pBDKcuLCwZTQUclBGAakyLq_t

better check this out before making a decision; is it 5G ? scientists discussing this here. very important information for all of us to learn. fiber optics? huh, think this is 5G tecnology which has not been tested and has no safety for radiation pollution with humans and animals. This is  serious.



Posted by: Barry Douglas Morse | Dec 11, 2019 10:31

Just the peanut gallery, here, but my first question to the board would be "Does the board really have the expertise to evaluate this offer or knowledgeably counter-offer?" Second, "Has the board considered wireless alternatives." Third would be "Has the board considered waiting for the rollout of 5G cellular?"

 

Just in the interest of technical accuracy, I'll point out that the LCI bandwidth plans are denominated in megabits per second, not megabytes per second.



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