Broadband access subject of Oxford Hills forum

PARIS — Bringing faster, more reliable internet access to Oxford County communities is the goal of a partnership that held a public forum Tuesday night. The effort to expand broadband is being led by Community Concepts Finance Corp. and Maine West, a collaboration of local and regional organizations “dedicated to solving challenges related to the economic, education, health and conservation sectors,” said Mia Purcell, economic development manager at Community Concepts Finance Corp.

Purcell said that the meeting was meant to “educate residents and businesses on the current situation regarding internet access and usage in Oxford County.”

She said the two organizations have started the Maine West Broadband Accessibility Project, with the goal of ensuring that “communities have the reliable, next generation broadband and internet infrastructure needed for people and businesses to prosper now and into the future.”

The meeting will also serve as one of the initial steps required to apply for a grant aimed at providing funds to expand broadband availability in the Bethel area, River Valley and Oxford Hills, Purcell said.

“It’s hard to imagine a life without internet and broadband,” she said. “It connects young people to the world, attracts young families to live in the area, provides access to health care and increases tourism dollars.”

Andrew Glassfeld, an Oxford County resident who described himself as a “nerd by trade,” gave a brief overview of broadband, which he said the FCC described as “high-speed internet that is always on.”

Glassfeld added that Maine’s standard for broadband is to provide internet with a minimum of 10 megabits per second (mbps) for downloading data, or 10 million bits per second, and a minimum of 10 mbps for uploading data.

“Right now, no businesses or homes meet the Maine standards for broadband internet,” he said. Halfway through the meeting, residents in the audience split up into groups and sat down with members of the committee responsible for applying for the grant. Otisfield resident Kristin Roy said that her house has DSL internet through FairPoint because cable internet is not available where she lives.

She said that if someone in her family is watching Netflix, nobody else in the house can use the internet because “they slow each other down.”

Her son, James Gosnell, a student at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, said that sometimes, his classes require the use of a website, and because his internet is slow sometimes, he has to download files of his homework and print them out instead of using the websites. Roy said, “Sometimes, it works great. Other times, not so much.”

Gosnell quickly piped in, “‘Great’ probably is too strong of a word.”

He later said that the download of his internet was 4 mbps, well below Maine standards.

Committee member Steve Wight of Newry said that he and the other people on the committee would take the information given by Roy, Gosnell and the other residents and use it to help them apply for the grant.

“The grant will be used to help us hire a consultant who has helped bring broadband to communities like this before,” he said.


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‘Broadband delivery plan a must’ – McNulty

'Broadband Delivery Plan A Must' – McNultySDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty has called on the Department of the Economy and the Department of Infrastructure to publish an Integrated Broadband Delivery Plan for the North and said that it must ensure that all rural dwellers have access to high quality broadband as a priority.

Speaking to Newry Times, McNulty said, “People are fed up with empty promises and posters from utility companies and government claiming to be investing in rural broadband or delivering broadband for certain areas and yet nothing is happening.

“They want to see real investment and a clear indication when the investment is going to happen in their areas. The last debate of the Assembly was on broadband in Newry and Armagh and it’s a major issue for people living in rural areas.

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'Broadband Delivery Plan A Must' – McNulty“It is no longer a luxury or a service people want, it’s a reality of everyday life, it’s a necessity for everyone here,” he continued.

“People are rightly fed up with the piece meal approach to dealing with the issue, one minister after another has made announcements about ‘investment’ in broadband but in reality local people are seeing no difference.

“As a political representative it is one of the major issues people contact me about. I am constantly lobbying BT and government departments but I get the real sense that they are working in individual silos and not together.

“We need a coherent and Integrated Broadband Delivery Plan which sets out very clear defined goals and targets detailing when individual areas will have access to broadband. It must reach into the rural areas currently not serviced.

“I have visited businesses and householders right across the area who are at their wits end. Students cannot do their homework and have to travel into the local library to access broadband. Businesses are losing vital contracts and trade because of poor connectivity. This is just not on and must be addressed as a matter of urgency,” McNulty added.

  • 'Broadband Delivery Plan A Must' – McNulty

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Fearon calls for transfer of telecommunications powers

Sinn F in MLA Megan Fearon has welcomed the publication of the Ofcom Strategic Review of Digital Communications on the roll-out of broadband to every household and business.

Fearon Calls For Transfer Of Telecommunications Powers With speeds of at least 10mbps and the intention of placing new obligations in future spectrum licences to improve rural mobile coverage this will be welcomed in rural areas such as south Armagh where there are still unacceptable gaps in broadband coverage, she said.

The gaps in telecommunications coverage in rural areas present a major problem for citizens and for economic development.

The privatisation of telecommunications services has led to this market being run on the basis of corporate profits rather than provision of a public service. Providers have not made the required investment in rural areas where there is a smaller population base, the local MLA insisted.

The fact we are reliant on Ofcom to enforce regulations makes us dependent on the British government to ensure that mobile phone and broadband providers comply with the legislation.

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Fearon Calls For Transfer Of Telecommunications Powers I have no faith the British government will impose overly onerous conditions on telecoms providers as demonstrated in its failure to progress universal broadband to date.

The awarding of 4G licences, which did not include conditions that providers had to deliver coverage to at least 98% of each postcode area, shows the lack of ambition by the British government.

This means providers can meet their obligations simply through investment in profitable larger population urban areas at the expense of the rural communities. Fearon added, It is time therefore that powers over telecommunications should be transferred to Stormont, so local elected representatives can set telecoms policies which meet the needs of all the people here, urban and rural.

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