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Bethlehem committee studying ways to expand broadband

May 14, 2014
BETHLEHEM— Access to faster electronic data has been an interest area for local and state policy makers for several years. The town is now considering ways to expand the reach of broadband technology.

In December, Bethlehem was named one of three state participants in the broadband "ready communities" program. Greenfield and Moultonborough were also selected for the effort.

Although Bethlehem has access to the state highways that often bring expansion of broadband infrastructure, the town is spread out compared to most. With more than 90 square miles of area, parts of Bethlehem must still rely on dial-up connections, now deemed too slow for the necessities of modern tech-based business and high definition video.

Selectman Martin Glavac serves as chairman of the Bethlehem Broadband Steering Committee. Last week he met with some other committee members to articulate goals for the next few months.

The issue is more than just helping people download movies and games faster. Glavac sees the necessity of broadband to attract residents and create more businesses. As he mentioned last week, Glavac has spoken with several people who elected to not move to Bethlehem because other towns offered faster Internet connection speeds.

Losing out on new residents has an impact on businesses and others already in Bethlehem, Glavac said. "That's unfair to the town," he declared, and the committee aims to expand access to broadband in attempt to assist the town as a whole. One goal for the committee is to study real estate data to determine the extent of lost sales in Bethlehem due to the town's limited ability to get broadband.

Mary Lou Krambeer, a member of the committee, suggests a cooperative approach between residents, the town, and businesses could serve as a model for other communities looking to expand broadband. Through growing partnerships, Krambeer believes the committee can provide recommendations on how broadband can expand in Bethlehem. As she said, the committee's goal is to show "the value of broadband to the vitality of the community."

Bethlehem's study will continue into October. The committee aims to build awareness in town, promote outreach on broadband expansion, and engage people to find ways to deliver faster speeds to town residents. Grafton County Extension and the North Country Council have been assisting the committee.

Ideas will be presented to the town after the committee's work. One issue of interest is developing information on broadband and telecommunications policy in the town's master plan, which is scheduled to be revised this year. Financing broadband infrastructure expansion and negotiations with service providers are other items of importance to the committee.

Town residents can play a part in the effort. Glavac said anyone interested in joining the town's broadband committee can let him know. He can be contacted at selectman5@bethlehemnh.org.

Residents can also help the committee by taking an Internet connection speed test, which is measured in Megabits per Second (Mbps). The state Broadband Mapping and Planning Program recommends all residents take the test. To do so, you only need to provide your address to the following website: http://www.iwantbroadbandnh.org/speed_test.

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