flag image

No CARES funding for broadband expansion

September 16, 2020
WOLFEBORO — Rick Hilland, co-chairman of the Carroll County Broadband Committee, doesn't know why broadband grant bids from Sandwich and Wolfeboro for CARES Act funds were rejected by the state. According to Hilland, the costs were lower than the state average.

A $16 million portion of the $50 million designated for broadband infrastructure has been targeted by the governor for rural New Hampshire to expand access to support educational, telemedicine and business needs. Of that piece of the pie, 17 towns were awarded grants, none of them in Carroll County.

Wolfeboro Selectman Paul O'Brien announced in late June that the town was going to bid, though there were "a lot of strictures," such as a short time to apply and the requirement that projects had to be completed by Dec. 15. On Sept. 2, O'Brien informed the Board of Selectmen that he had called State Sen. Jeb Bradley and received the bad news with no explanation given.

He praised Town Manager Jim Pineo, Planner Matthew Sullivan, and Muncipal Electric Department Director Barry Muccio for their work under intense time pressure and expressed disappointment. The project was intended to bring service to clearly defined areas of need. The North Wolfeboro segment, Cowper, Chick, Bickford, Stoddard, and Stoneham roads, as previously explained by O'Brien, has a number of deficiencies: telephone service doesn't meet minimum thresholds; there is no cable service; and the wireless coverage is spotty. He said the estimate for expanding coverage to the 23 homes in that area, which includes adding about three and a half miles of fiber, is $170,000.

Though discouraged, O'Brien says he will persist. One bright spot from all the discussions with providers over the last few months, said O'Brien, is that Atlantic Broadband has committed to expanding access to the Warren Sands area, which includes around 17 homes.

"I question whether some of those that were awarded [grants] will be able to be complete them on time," said Hilland.

The Request For Proposal said grantees would receive 10 percent of the project cost within 30 days and the rest would come if obligations were met by Dec. 15. The CARES Act money has to be spent by the end of the year.

"Rural New Hampshire lacks good highspeed internet access," says Hilland, but, striking a positive note, he said, "I think there are opportunities ahead."

Klumb Environmenta;
Varney Smith
Thanks for visiting SalmonPress.com