Bowdoin residents vote nearly unanimously in favor of kicking in $25,000 for cable expansion to underserved areas in town, during the annual town meeting Saturday. (Darcie Moore / The Times Record)

BOWDOIN — Bowdoin residents backed a $481,000 high-speed internet expansion plan during Saturday’s annual town meeting. The project would spread service to more than 250 homes that don’t have access, with the town contributing $25,000 toward the effort. 

Comcast will extend cable along town and publicly maintained roads in town. Under an agreement negotiated with Comcast, if the town pays its share of the cable expansion, Comcast would foot most of the bill — more than $400,000.

Selectmen chair Marc Bernier said this does not give the town the right to cap current rates in the contract with Comcast. The project should be finished by the end of the year.

Bowdoin formed an internet and committee meeting two years ago to work on bringing those services to the underserved areas. The town’s franchise agreement with Comcast expired more than three years ago, with the provider reluctant to engage in expansion talks. Those discussions picked up within the past year. The committee even explored the possibility of building its own infrastructure for fiber optic service, which would have allowed the town to dictate the service terms, but carried an estimated $3.6 million price tag.

John Lewis, who chaired the town’s internet and cable committee, called Saturday’s vote a victory. 

“Overall I think the town understands the importance of this, and even those currently served understand that we need to get that coverage out because it is going to benefit more than the current residents,” Lewis said. “It is going to be one more reason why someone is going to want to come to this town, or one reason why they may not decide to skip over this town if they decide they don’t have internet.”

Liana Kelly of West Road also served on the internet and cable committee. A nurse practitioner, access to the internet means she can chart at home and have more time with here family.  

“I spend long hours at work,” she said.

It also means her 11-year-old son will have access to the internet when he gets a laptop in middle school next school year, requiring him to complete assignments from home. 

“I’ve been working on this for probably six or seven years and my big push was to make sure he had it before he went to middle school,” she said.

The 100 residents who attended town meeting also approved the proposed $1 million, a 5 percent increase over 2018. However the amount coming from taxes, $304,800, is actually a $2,000 decrease from the current year.

Deborah Marquis was reelected to another term on the Board of Selectmen. Lauren Leclerc won another term on the Planning Board. Roy Letourneau was also elected to the Planning Board.

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