FAYETTE — A proposal by Maine-based Redzone Wireless to Fayette could bring high-speed internet to the entire town, which currently has drastically limited service.
The Rockland-based company first brought its proposal to the selectboard on Oct. 19 during an executive session. Upon exiting the session, the board voted to direct the town manager “to enter into a letter of intent and receive a proposed contract from Redzone Wireless for the provision of high-speed internet services.”
The board’s next meeting, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. via Zoom, will include a public presentation about the new service. According to Town Manager Mark Robinson, the board may also choose to take action on this proposal during the meeting.
If the town accepts the offer, Redzone Wireless’ service will provide up to 500 megabits per second, or mbps, download speeds, and 100 mbps upload speeds.
The company says its service would cover 100% of the community, including unserved and off-grid locations.
Fayette is also part of the Western Kennebec Lakes Community Broadband Association, a collective of six towns including Leeds, Mount Vernon, Readfield, Wayne, and Vienna. For three years, the organization has worked on solutions to benefit all six underserved towns. And it recently contracted with the Preti Flaherty law firm to draft an interlocal agreement among the member towns, which would allow them to become a nonprofit and build their own network.
Association Chairman Joseph Young said the possibility of Fayette entering an agreement with a private business could significantly change the group’s future goals, adding that they will be meeting in the future to discuss their plans.
“It’s conceivable to me that this could all work together to benefit all the towns if they agree that it’s a good technology to adopt,” he said.
Robinson said that Fayette’s opportunity with Redzone would not be possible were it not for the hard work of everyone involved with the broadband association.
“It’s because of all of their work that made it possible for this opportunity for Fayette to be one of the first communities approached by Redzone,” he said, “and to be in a position where they could take advantage of this new technology.”
Regardless of what decisions are made, the new technology has the potential to help people across the state with limited internet access.
“It’s a really interesting, game-changing technology that may help us all,” he said.
Redzone is able to accomplish this through collaboration with Tarana Wireless. According to Tarana’s website, its Gigabit 1 technology “delivers fiber-class speeds and quality over non-line-of-sight connections at long range — in an unlicensed spectrum — that are immune to interference and changes at the scene.”
The project would also be nonexclusive, meaning the town could still develop another broadband network project at the same time if it chose.
The network would provide service via four existing carrier-grade tower locations in Fayette, Livermore, Readfield and Mount Vernon. These four towers would cover seven sectors and have a collective 16.8 Gbps capacity.
And the company said it can do this all within nine months.
In a timeline provided to the town, the project is split up into three phases. The first phase is 20 days, and involves receiving regional project approval. Phase two, estimated to take 60 days, will involve final design and engineering, procurement and hardware configuration and testing. The third phase will take an estimated 190 days. This includes permitting, tower lease and transport agreements, staging and deployment, ground and vertical tower construction, fiber circuit activation, and testing.
The total project is estimated to cost $1,285,380 over five years, with Redzone agreeing to cover 70% of these costs. It would also cover any future costs for operating expenses, tech support, network maintenance, and technology upgrades. The community’s 30% contribution would be $385,275.
With the project bringing internet to 825 locations in town, the community contribution for each location is estimated at $467.
If successful, residents could expect to pay $50 a month for a connection with a 100/20 mbps download and upload speed, $75 a month for a 100/100 mbps connection, and $99 a month for a 500/100 mbps connection.