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Town pushing to give nearly all broadband access

Grant may help cover 95 percent of town

(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)

(Staff photo by Ashley Saari) Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

TEMPLE — Broadband may soon cover nearly all of Temple, but first the town must come up with $311,000 to pay for it.

At a Select Board meeting Tuesday, Select Board Chair John Kieley told the board that the town has the opportunity to increase high-speed broadband coverage to 95 percent of the town. The increase would affect four main areas in town, he said. The areas that would be getting the upgrade are Lempster Highway; General Miller Highway and East Road; Cutter Road and the north end of Hadley Highway; and the south end of Hadley Highway, Kieley said in an interview Wednesday. More than 50 homes would be affected.

“If we are successful in filling in those areas, our coverage will increase to greater than 95 percent,” Kieley said. Currently, about 80 percent of the town has access to high-speed internet, Kieley said. “The challenge is to build it out and get as close to 100 percent as we can,” he said.

The town has spent the past two years evaluating the town’s coverage and the quality and speed of that coverage, and evaluating what can be done to fill the gaps where there is no coverage or low speed, Kieley said Wednesday. The next step is funding the extension of that coverage, which the town will be working on in the coming months.

But the extension wouldn’t come without a price, with the project expected to cost about $311,000. A portion of that cost would be covered by Comcast, which would pay for significantly more than half of the price, Kieley said. Even with Comcast picking up a portion of the bill, however, the town will still have to come up with more than $100,000.

Kieley told the board the town will likely be eligible for federal money slated to expand high-speed internet into rural areas, which may take care of a portion of the cost. The board will have to come up with other ways to make up the funds between now and this fall, he said. Charging those who subscribe to the service or borrowing the funds were both options, but ones he would like to avoid, Kieley said. Kieley said Wednesday that the town would strongly prefer to fund the project with commercial and federal funds, rather than through taxation.

“It would not be our anticipation to go to the voters,” he said, although he added that was still an option should other funding options fail.

In other Select Board news, the board met with Rebekah Bullock from Southwest Regional Planning to discuss using a state office of Emergency Planning grant to update the town’s Emergency Management Plan. The grant would be for $5,000. The town would need to match a certain portion of the grant, but the town’s contribution can be made through volunteer work in updating the plan. Although the town has yet to apply for the grant, the Select Board has met with the state office and is confident the monies would be available for the town, said Kieley Wednesday.

Bullock told the board that the updates would consist mostly of updating the old plan to be in line with state standards that have changed since the plan was first written and creating a clearer understanding of what officials would be in charge of in the case of specific disasters. Kieley pointed to the 2008 ice storm as an example of a disaster that had caused some confusion in terms of which emergency official was to head the chain of command. The process will take up to 10 weeks to complete.

The Temple Select Board will meet next on Aug. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the Town Hall.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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