July 03, 2020WOLFEBORO — On June 26, the Board of Selectmen signed a letter of support for a bid currently in process to expand broadband coverage to underserved areas within the environs of Wolfeboro.
$50 million in CARES funding of the $625 million received by the state so far (half of the anticipated total) is designated for broadband infrastructure. The state released Request for Proposals for subgrants on June 18, and "We're going for it," declared Selectman Paul O'Brien. "I've been in the (telecommunications) industry for 40 years...It's tough, there are a lot of strictures, but Wolfeboro is going to bid it."
O'Brien told the board that the town has no relationship with the NH Electric Co-op because it has its own municipal electric department (MED), and no relationship with Spectrum Communications, but "in the next few days we hope to." Sen. Jeb Bradley and MED Director Barry Muccio have been enlisted to seek the support of the NH Co-op and Town Planner Matt Sullivan and Town Manager Jim Pineo have rolled up their sleeves to develop the hard cost figures. "They are incredible, incredible people," enthused O'Brien.
At stake is bringing service to clearly defined areas of need. In the North Wolfeboro segment, Cowper, Chick, Bickford, Stoddard, and Stoneham roads, explained O'Brien, 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.
The Warren Sands area, including around 17 homes, has the same situation. The estimated cost is $40,000.
O'Brien expressed disappointment that N Wakefield Rd. will continue to go unserved. He explained that the engineering work made it "literally impossible to see how we can serve them at this time."
O'Brien says he is also seeking letters of support from Wolfeboro's legislators, John McDonald and Edie DesMarias, and citizens in the specified areas, to attach to the application.
The grant does not include planning (Carroll County Broadband has asked for $11 million from the $50 million set aside for broadband to distribute to the 19 towns in Carroll County to cover planning costs) and the project has to be shovel ready by Dec. 20 this year.
As O'Brien says, "There are a lot of moving parts here."
An answer from the state is anticipated by mid-July.
If we can do this, said O'Brien, "It will show what happens when the dog actually does catch the bus. We will be aufully busy."