Oakland, Maine, has asked the community to complete a survey in order to obtain a better picture of local connectivity. The town of about 6,300 people is investigating ways to expand how they use their existing publicly owned fiber optic system.
With an area of 28.17 square miles, Oakland is similar to other rural communities. The town, however, has a small fiber optic system and community leaders are researching how they can get the most from that resource to improve Internet access. Back in 2007, Oakland received a federal grant, which allowed the town to deploy fiber to select governmental buildings at the edge of Oakland’s downtown; the fiber is not connected to businesses or residences.
Currently, Spectrum Communications and Consolidated Communications offer cable and DSL Internet access to residences, but businesses have only one option -- Spectrum. According to Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman, improving competition for economic development and better rates is a motivating factor:
"By taking advantage of our assets and expanding our current fiber optic infrastructure into the downtown district, we intend to attract additional Internet service providers into Oakland, with the long-term goal of servicing business owners with faster Internet and reducing their Internet costs.”
The Game Plan
Back in December of 2018, the Maine Community Foundation awarded $15,000 specifically for strategic implementation of broadband. Shortly after receiving the grant, on February 27th, 2019, the Oakland City Council voted unanimously to form the Oakland Broadband & Technology Committee (OBTC).
The Town Council appointed seven individuals on the committee and entrusted them with five main objectives:
- Map[ping] existing broadband and telematics infrastructure
- [Analyze the] potential to create an online GIS system for future use
- Identify key gaps within the Town of Oakland’s downtown district
- Determine the appropriate financial model for expansion with specific focus along a 1,700-foot section of Main Street. (approx. 20 commercial entities located in this section.)
- Identify further funding opportunities for implementation
The OBTC plan includes five meetings spread throughout 2019. Their fourth and most recent meeting, titled "Project Costs ID," was held on September 17th, 2019. The last meeting will be held on December 1st, 2019. The timeline can be found here.
In order for OBTC to truly understand Oakland’s needs, the committee will first collect data from the community. The OBTC created take rate surveys to collect the information they need and to get a better idea about the community’s competitive landscape for residential and business services and to prepare for future needs. When determining what information to include on the survey, the OBTC considered factors such as:
- Speed. Download and upload.
- Price. Current and ideal.
- Provider. Reliability, speed, customer service.
- Bundling. With telephone, TV, etc.
- Retention. Importance of Internet service in decision of where to locate business.
- Use. Current and ideal uses of Internet access.
- Demographics. Size of business, industry, etc. Municipality installs, maintains, and sells Internet access
"We Want to Know..."
In order to participate in the survey, Oakland residents and businesses will need their most recent Internet access bill and will be asked to test their Internet access speed. The people of Oakland can take the survey here. The survey closes on October 31st, 2019.
“We want to understand what Oakland consumers expect of their Internet service, and to what extent those expectations are currently met,” said Oakland Town Manager Gary Bowman. “We can use that data to analyze plans for extending the town’s current fiber optics network and determine what would be best for the people of Oakland. We are incorporating their voice at every possible opportunity.”