The city of Belfast was recently selected by the ConnectME Authority as a recipient of a Community Broadband Planning Grant in the amount of $15,000.

The city will use the funds to create a Community Technology Plan.  This plan will include: the defining of community broadband needs and goals; network planning and financial analysis; the assessing of municipal procedures, policies, rules, and ordinances; digital inclusion and adoption; economic impacts; and public outreach, according to a press release from Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge. Axiom Technologies, having already partnered with more than a dozen communities, regions, and counties across rural Maine, has been retained by the city to oversee implementation of this grant.  The city is represented in the planning effort by members of its already-established Broadband Committee.

Kittredge said, “The mayor and the City Council have previously recognized that the accessibility (or lack thereof) of broadband internet plays a significant factor when it comes to both community development and to business development, and this planning grant, that they endorsed applying for, represents an important step in the effort to evaluate this issue and to develop plans and solutions.

"While Belfast has some positive factors related to broadband internet access, such as the ‘Three Ring Binder’ running directly through the community and the presence of multiple active internet service providers, we understand that access to broadband is certainly not equal throughout the community, and there is likely some role for the City to play in addressing that.”

Axiom CEO Susan Corbett said, “Axiom is thrilled to be working with Belfast and we look forward to working with interested stakeholders to develop a solid plan for broadband adoption and engineering for the city.”

The next important step for this planning effort, to be undertaken in the next few months, Kittredge said, is distributing surveys to residents and the business community. The surveys will help the committee understand concerns regarding broadband, the costs of current service, where service gaps are present, and what needs exist regarding future connectivity.

Any person or entity interested in learning more about this broadband planning effort is encouraged to contact Kittredge via email at economicdevelopment@cityofbelfast.org or by phone at 338-3370, ext. 16. Information related to the broadband planning process also will be made available online at cityofbelfast.org/broadband.