Community Compass: Broadband vote on June 14 aims to prepare Readfield for the future

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Fran, 77, has her quarterly follow-up visit with a Boston dermatologist who specializes in the form of cancer she’s been battling. Even with a shortage of doctors in Maine, she is able to have a real-time assessment using a special camera sent to her.

Matt, 42 and a disabled veteran, is finally able to complete his studies in media production and graduate from college. He is now looking for more than eight job offers – and crucially, seven of them would allow him to work from Readfield.

Susan, 50, retails her local produce online and has also found a niche to sell a best-selling item, in Argentina among all. She’s also grateful for the remote examinations of a culture by a specialist that help her prevent some costly problems.

Lyn, 28, is an urban planner for the city of Detroit, Michigan. She has a well-paying job that would have been unthinkable from Readfield in the past while allowing her to help out her aging parents in town. She often flies a drone remotely in Detroit to gather information before uploading engineering files.

Jason, 11, is fascinated by an astronomy offer at school. A planetarium tent has been shipped there for a three-week course, and Lars from Norway is the holographic guide for his class. He now takes mum, dad and his sisters to a public performance offered to the community in the fourth week.

This is just a glimpse of the benefits that Readfield could have access to in the future with true high-speed fiber broadband service in place for all. This is just a glimpse because, just as when electricity was introduced to homes and businesses, new services and products beyond our current imagination will be created by “turning on the lights”.

While I understand the valid questions I’ve heard about Readfield’s proposed project, I regret hearing a lot of misinformation about it. I ask voters to study the issue carefully and consider its very long-term benefits.

We should all be concerned about Readfield’s digital future. The world we will live in, and especially our children, will need a good, solid infrastructure for digital services. Much like today’s reliance on electricity, roads, solid waste management and other services, we can easily forget that they are in place because previous generations invested in them and built them.

The purpose of this chronicle is not to push back all the erroneous information circulating piecemeal. However, there are a few larger themes that need to be addressed.

First, the project is set up to be funded by a deposit, but it is essential to know that the majority of the deposit is designed to be reimbursed by those who sign up for the service. The project only moves forward if a threshold of subscribers sign up, and I personally see that number growing year on year over the next decade. Municipalities have the means to set up this type of project guarantee; Spectrum or other players will not invest in reliable broadband fiber available to everyone.

Second, fiber, despite talk of cable or satellite, is the most reliable long-term path we can take. We can offer up to 100 times the actual wire speed 24/7. We will have superior reliability to expensive satellite systems, which will not be fully deployed for many years.

Finally, the statement that “broadband is not a problem or not necessary” is based solely on someone’s current perception. It is the future that I urge us to consider. Currently, we are served by a cable system that is expensive to upgrade, is aging, is not available equally to all, and uses a predatory pricing model. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that connectivity can dramatically improve our lives, even in a small rural community.

We can make the first stories in this column come to life by investing in our future profitably. Telemedicine, remote working, enhanced educational resources, supports for aging in place and a wide range of services will become available by supporting this link. And while that’s not my personal focus, the entertainment offerings will be much broader.

The City of Readfield website, ReadfieldMaine.org, and ReadfieldFiber.org offer many links to facts about the project, its services, and its cost. I urge you to study them fully, especially when you hear information that makes you wonder. I hope you will join me in voting yes on June 14th.

Let’s join the growing number of communities taking charge of their future for the good of all.

Bruce Bourgoine has lived in Readfield for 28 years, served two terms on the Maranacook School Board and two terms on the Readfield Select Board.


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