Mount Vernon voters to weigh in on high-speed internet project – Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel

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If residents approve of appropriating up to $3.1 million for the project, a fiber-to-the-home service offered by Matrix Design Group could become available in late 2024.
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MOUNT VERNON — Voters will decide in November whether to bring high-speed internet to a town where officials say nearly a third of households have spotty internet coverage or no service access at all.
Mount Vernon residents are being asked whether they want to appropriate up to $3.1 million for Matrix Design Group to construct a broadband network. If approved, the network could go live in late 2024 or early 2025.
The overall project is expected to cost $5.1 million and would allow the town to adapt to a future that is increasingly dependent on the internet for entertainment offerings, remote employment opportunities and even certain healthcare services, according to officials in favor of the proposal.
Matrix Design Group would contribute $2 million and lease the network to the town. Mount Vernon is also applying for a $2 million grant through the Maine Connectivity Authority, and the town is seeking to bond the remainder, up to $1.3 million, over 15 years.
“If we get a grant of around $2 million dollars, Mount Vernon would get a bond of about $1 million dollars and Matrix would put in $2 million dollars,” said Carl Rosenberg, chairman of the Mount Vernon Broadband Committee.
Interest on the bond, at a rate of 4.5%, would cost about $515,048, bringing the total debt service to $1,815,719, according to town officials.

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If voters approve the ballot question, the town will enter into a partnership with Matrix Design Group, apply for grants and borrow money and then, between 2023 and 2024, negotiate where the fiber will be strung. The service is expected to become available between late 2024 and early 2025.
Customers would be able to choose one of four different options for service, according to a presentation shown to residents on Oct. 22. Residents could pay $45 a month for a connection with upload and download speeds of 50 megabit per second, or mbps; $55 per month for a 100 mbps connection; $75 per month for a 500 mbps connection; or $99 per month for a connection with 1 gigabit per second upload and download speeds.
About 30% of residents currently have poor service or no service at all in the Kennebec County town of about 1,720 people, town officials said.
If fewer than 571 residents — about how many residents are without service now — subscribe, monthly rates would increase by $10 per month. Installation is free for the first 571 pre-subscribers, after which it will cost $400.
The service will not be municipally owned, but the town will have the option to purchase the network after five years.
Rosenberg said the broadband committee received proposals from four different internet service providers: Redzone Wireless, Charter Communications, Axiom and Matrix Design Group. The group then narrowed it down to Axiom and Matrix, as they offer fiber-to-the-home, which is considered faster and more reliable than cable. The committee ultimately selected Matrix.

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“(Matrix Design Group) has been in the business for 27 years, they really know what they’re doing, and it’s been a good relationship,” he said. “With these kinds of things, it’s a long-term proposition; this is all about the future. The fiber network, if it is built, is going to last 30 years or more. The relationship with Matrix is going to go for 20 years.”
Carl Rogers, a member of both the town’s Select Board and broadband committee, said municipal and elected officials seem to be on board with bringing fiber to town.
“I believe we’re all on board with this project. We feel that it’s important for the community, especially the younger members of the community,” he said. “Going forward I think we anticipate not only that it drives economic growth, meaning working from home, preserving character in our town, but also that we have the potential to retain the children of our families in a more local environment,” he said.
Bob Grenier, chairman of the Mount Vernon Select Board, said the town is hoping this will ensure a higher quality of life for residents in the coming decades.
“People are working from home now,” he said, “and also healthcare is being driven by your internet. You’re doing healthcare at home. TV services are being streamed now, so there are a lot of things pointing towards the future being linked to high-speed internet.”
In-person voting will take place Nov. 8 at the community center at 2 Main St. from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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