ELLSWORTH — The planned route for a high-speed, broadband Internet project will be a mile longer and follow a different route than originally envisioned following a vote by the City Council last week.
Councilors approved putting an additional $30,000 toward the cost of the broadband project, which is now set to cover a three-mile stretch rather than a two-mile route.
That pushes the total cost of the broadband project to $308,445 — though none of it is coming from residential property owners’ pockets.
The bulk of the money — $250,000 — is coming from a grant issued by the Northern Border Regional Commission to the Ellsworth Business Development Corp. in 2014. The latter group has been spearheading the effort to bring higher-speed Internet service to the city.
The City Council approved putting up to an additional $28,445 toward the project in July. That money will come from the city’s tax-increment financing program.
On Nov. 16, councilors voted unanimously to set aside an additional $30,000 to cover the costs of adding a third mile to the project, as recommended by Tilson Technology Management of Portland.
Tilson is working with the city to design, engineer and build the local broadband network.
The $30,000 approved on Nov. 16 will come from the proceeds of the recent sale of the former Collier’s Nursing Home on Birch Avenue.
Jason Ingalls, technology systems administrator for the city, told councilors the additional $30,000 is needed because stretching the route an additional mile requires more materials and more labor.
City Manager David Cole said Tilson was looking to have the city “get the most bang for our buck,” and that extending the broadband route will allow more potential customers to be served.
The broadband project will involve fiber lines, which transmit data in the form of optical light rather than as electrical signals, as is the case with traditional copper cables. This allows data to be transferred much faster.
The three-mile route would start at Harbor Park, then head north on Water Street (a hub station would be located at the site of the old wastewater treatment plant) and onto State Street before turning onto Church Street to serve City Hall.
From there it would head over to Oak Street, and then south along Oak to High Street. The line is set to follow High Street all the way out to the intersection with Beechland Road, where it would end.
That is a change from the earlier plan, which called for the line to start on Water Street and run north to the Mill Mall and Commerce Park off of Lakes Lane.
City officials see bringing broadband service to Ellsworth as a means of spurring economic development. High-speed Internet service, they said, can be used to entice businesses looking for a place to set up shop to consider Ellsworth.
The three-mile route as laid out does not prohibit other lines from being added on elsewhere in the city (i.e., more of State Street or the Bangor Road) in the future.
At this point, city officials estimate the broadband project will be installed and operational by next fall. Much of the work now involves getting approval to install lines on specific poles, they said, and the actual installation of lines should not take a long time once that work gets started.
The project is an example of what is known as COBI, or community-owned broadband infrastructure. The idea is not for the city to serve as or compete with Internet service providers, but rather to put in place the infrastructure that allows those companies to serve customers.