Cumberland County has chosen a consultant to develop a blueprint that communities could follow to develop their own municipal fiber-optic broadband internet networks.

County officials unanimously selected James W. Sewall Co. of Old Town for a project to identify the need and demand for expanded broadband access across the county, and predict the construction costs for fiber-optic lines along major arteries as well as the buildout cost for a complete fiber-to-the-home network for each municipality.

The project also will identify a range of funding and management options for a hypothetical regional operating utility that would provide the fiber-optic service, county officials said in a news release. The goal is to create a set of guidelines for communities that want to build their own broadband networks in collaboration with neighboring cities and towns.

Many municipalities in Maine, especially in rural areas, are exploring creating their own broadband networks after years of waiting for internet service providers to bring high-speed services to their areas.

Sewall is a subsidiary of New York-based Treadwell Franklin Infrastructure Capital. It was chosen by the review committee from a list of applicants because of its “thorough, responsive proposal,” which was most closely aligned with the county’s vision for the project, the news release said. The committee cited the deep expertise of Sewall’s team members, its extensive broadband consulting experience in Maine and New England, and its commitment to visiting with all municipal officials and surveying businesses and residents in each of the 28 municipalities involved in the research project.

In addition, Sewall was deemed uniquely qualified because it has already established relationships with all current service providers in the county and in many of the municipalities through its cable franchise renegotiation efforts, it said. Experience with a similar broadband planning project in Franklin County and consumer survey work performed for the ConnectME Authority also were cited as reasons why the county chose Sewall.

The county issued a request for proposals in October for a community broadband study that would cost up to $25,000, funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant.

County officials said they envision the project as a first step in its long-term regional commitment to expand the availability and affordability of broadband service.

“We’re looking forward to working with Sewall on a playbook for Cumberland County’s connected future,” said county spokesman Travis Kennedy. “Sewall is uniquely qualified to do the kind of research that our communities will need in order to make informed decisions about broadband expansion.”

Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: jcraiganderson

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