SEARSMONT — A task force exploring how to expand broadband internet service to all town residents is holding an information meeting Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Searsmont Town Office.

According to Select Board member Pete Milinazzo, who is also on the Searsmont Broadband Task Force, 96% of the town’s 70 miles of road are unserved or underserved. In layman’s terms, this means the speed at which residents download or upload data from the internet does not meet federal guidelines.

So far, the task force has conducted a survey, applied for and received a ConnectME planning grant, talked with local internet providers, and spoken with Midcoast Internet Coalition, which includes the towns of Camden, Hope, Lincolnville, Northport, Rockland, Rockport, South Thomaston and Thomaston.

In an effort to show strength in numbers for grant funding and negotiating contracts, the task force has also joined forces with the Southwest Waldo County Broadband Coalition, which includes the towns of Freedom, Liberty, Montville and Palermo.

The goal of SWCBC is to build a municipal-owned, open-access public utility offering fiber broadband to residents of towns in the coalition. The coalition would then hire an internet provider to run the utility and handle service.

The project would be funded by municipal bonds with state and federal grants, including money from the American Rescue Plan Act. According to SWCBC, the utility would be built without local tax dollars.

Currently SWCBC is organizing a feasibility study and exploring financing options. It estimates a three- to five-year rollout.

Members of SWCBC will be on hand at the meeting to answer any questions residents may have about this effort. The meeting will also be accessible through Zoom. Residents should call the Town Office at 342-5411 to receive log-in information.