Residents of five Waldo County towns will be asked to vote in July and August on a proposal to create a fiber broadband connection for every home.

Frustrated by slow and expensive internet service, residents of each of the towns formed a committee that has worked for over two years to develop a better approach with the goal of providing equitable access to a fiber-optic broadband network with fast upload speeds, providing a minimum of 100 HMbit/sec symmetric service.

Resident responses to surveys indicated a need for faster internet for education, telehealth, employment, business and entertainment. The Southwestern Broadband Coalition board of directors reviewed an analysis of currently underserved areas and completed a feasibility study of providing fast fiber-optic access to every home in Freedom, Palermo, Montville, Liberty and Searsmont.

After extensive research, the SWCBC board determined that the most economical and efficient solution was to create a municipal utility, owned by the towns, that would provide open access to internet services and operate at no cost to taxpayers.

The towns now seek input from residents on the proposal. “Other underserved town groups, like Downeast Broadband, have done this with great success, providing much lower-cost internet and telephone service as a choice for (residents),” according to a press release July 18 from SWCBC.

“By providing a range of choices for internet service, residents will not be limited to just one internet provider and, instead of being dictated by one or few providers that offer low-speed and spotty service in most of the towns, residents could select what internet service best meets their needs and budget.”

Informational sessions are being offered in each town to provide residents with results of the SWCBC research and fiscal plans for the proposed Interlocal Agreement. A second meeting will then be held in each town to vote on the proposed nonprofit municipal utility, according to the press release.

If approved as a nonprofit municipal utility, owned by the five towns, the utility district will engage with an Internet Service Provider to run fiber-optic lines to every home, business and public building in the towns.

A copy of the Waldo Broadband Coalition Interlocal Agreement document is available in each town office. A positive vote will be a step forward to getting a choice of services among providers, the press release said. “Children will have a better education using the internet, the rest of us will be able to work from home and access telehealth services,” the release said.

More information is available at swwaldobroadband.org.

Following is the schedule of public informational meetings and voting by town:

Searsmont: Meet Wednesday, July 20, 7 p.m.; vote Wednesday, July 27, 7 p.m. at Searsmont Community Room.

Freedom: Meet Thursday, July 21, 6 p.m.; vote Thursday, July 28, 6 p.m. at Freedom Town Office Annex.

Palermo: Meet Tuesday, July 19, 6 p.m.; vote Thursday, July 21, 6 p.m. at Palermo Library.

Liberty: Meet Wednesday, July 20, 6:30 p.m.; vote Thursday, July 28, 6:30 p.m. at Liberty Community  Hall.

Montville: Meet Tuesday, Aug. 2, 6:30 p.m., or Wednesday, Aug. 17, 6:30 p.m.; vote Tuesday, Aug. 23, 6:30 p.m. at Montville Town House.