How broad should the city's broadband be at the Public Works garage or transfer station, and could there side benefits to investing in new transmission lines? These are some of the questions the City Council is weighing against a proposal from Lincolnville Communications Inc. that would bring fiber-optic internet to 10 city buildings.

LCI offered the lowest price of five bidders by a small margin, and fastest internet speeds by a wide one, Belfast Economic Development Director Thomas Kittredge said. However, the cost of running new fiber-optic lines to remote city buildings would more than triple the cost of the city's internet service for the first three years, after which the price would drop to slightly above what it pays today.

Alan Hinsey, sales manager for LCI, told the City Council on Tuesday that internet service — a speedy 1 Gbps wide area network — would cost the city $854 per month, as compared with roughly $600 per month today.

In addition to $2,135 in one-time expenses, including battery back-ups and other equipment, Hinsey said, LCI would need to run about four miles of new cable at a cost of $73,000, of which the city would pay $50,000, interest-free, over three years at rate of $1,389 per month.

That would bring the city's total monthly bill to $2,243 for the first three years, after which the new cable runs would be paid off and the city would pay only the $854 per month for internet service.

Hinsey said LCI could bring fiber-optic service to some city buildings, including City Hall, simply by tapping its existing lines, which already pass near the buildings. However, new cables would have to be run to outposts like the Fire Station, transfer station, Boathouse and a new Public Works building site on Crocker Road.

These new "loop lines" — so named because the cable literally includes loops that allow for splicing new connections — would account for the bulk of the cost. But at a little more than $12,500 per mile, Hinsey called it a bargain. Typically it costs $25,000 to $40,000 to run new fiber-optic cable, he said.

"This is a price that won't be seen again, and other municipalities won't receive this level of pricing," he said.

Today, the city uses several different internet service providers, combining DSL, cable and wireless service. Kittredge polled workers across city departments and found that most weren't satisfied with their internet speeds. The point of the request for proposals, he said, was to see if the city could get faster speeds at a better rate with a single provider.

That didn't happen, but Kittredge and other members of a committee that reviewed the proposals stood by the LCI bid as the "best value," considering the improvement in internet speeds.

The council didn't make any final decisions on Tuesday.

Former City Councilor Roger Lee, speaking in a public comment period, said the slightly higher monthly fee for much faster internet might be a good value, but he questioned the wisdom of putting up $50,000 to wire a few remote city buildings that might not need it.

"It's expensive to do," he said. "So, I think LCI is really getting quite a benefit out of this, because we're constructing fiber-optic lines to places that really have very little need for connection over a wide area network.

"They need to connect to the internet, no doubt … but we don't need it because of some integrated software application that the city runs, like might be the case with other businesses."