WALDO — The town’s Broadband Committee held a meeting Nov. 30 to report on its progress. Members include Select Board member Shirley Caler, her daughter, Chelsea Caler, Ashley Gould, Cindy Ledbetter and Carrie Whitcomb. According to Shirley Caler, they would like to add a few more members.

Caler spoke to The Republican Journal Dec. 7, explaining that the committee has been working with Bangor-based consultant Mission Broadband, which has helped with grant writing, setting up meetings with internet service providers and analyzing the survey the group sent out to residents about a year ago.

She said the survey included questions about residents’ access to high-speed internet service, the quality of service they received, how they use it and what they would be willing to pay for it.

Since then, the committee has applied for an $1,800 planning grant from ConnectMaine Authority, which was approved but has yet to be received. The town has also raised $2,000, which, along with the ConnectME grant, will go to pay Mission Broadband and other administrative costs.

Caler hopes the committee will be able to get another planning grant from ConnectME in the spring. She encouraged residents to take Maine Broadband Coalition’s internet speed test at mainebroadbandcoalition.org/landing to bolster the town’s case for funding.

The town also has $40,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds, plus $20,000 in ARPA monies from the county, that it may be able to put toward expansion of broadband access in the town, she said. But the committee needs more information on how the money can be spent, and must get approval at a town meeting for at least a portion of it.

While she is aware that some people in town are worried about the effect on property values of not having high-speed internet access everywhere in Waldo, her top concern is about making broadband available to schoolchildren, so that all have equal access to education, she said.

The committee’s next steps, to be taken after the new year, Caler said, will be to decide on an internet service provider to work with, prepare to apply for a larger grant and hold more public information meetings. She also hopes Waldo will be able to work with the town of Brooks on this issue, saying initial conversations with town representatives have been encouraging.

Caler said the committee hopes to make a presentation at town meeting, which is usually the second Saturday in March.

For information about joining the committee or to attend the next meeting, contact Caler at sdcaler@gmail.com or 342-5993.

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