Private firm expanding broadband in Hampden could end up competing with town

·2 min read

Oct. 11—TDS Telecom will begin construction next year to expand its all-fiber internet network in Hampden.

The project will bring high-speed internet to all but the northeast corner of town, where the business park is located, the company said.

But if voters next month approve borrowing $4.5 million to build a community fiber optic network that would reach every home and business in the community, the town could end up competing with TDS for customers.

If approved, the town would own the network but service would be provided by Axiom Technologies LLC, based in Machias.

Both TDS and the town plan to offer speeds of up to one gigabit per second.

TDS said last week that its fiber network already is accessible to about 1,500 addresses. After the work is completed, 1,200 additional residential and commercial locations would have access to its network, the Madison, Wisconsin-based firm said.

TDS said in its announcement that the project is being funded entirely by the company so "there are no tax implications for residents or businesses."

As for the town's proposal for a fiber network, subscribers would pay the cost of the bond issue, Amy Ryder, Hampden's economic development director, said at an informational meeting on Sept. 28 about the town's proposal.

At least 938 homes would need to connect to the network to repay the $4.5 million bond issue over 30 years, Ryder said.

Ryder did not immediately return a request for comment Friday, a day when the town office is closed.

TDS has served Maine since 1971, according to the company. In addition to private investment, TDS is using federal Alternative Connect America funds to expand and improve broadband service to customers in Maine.

Currently, about 335 homes in Hampden are considered to be underserved by internet service and only have DSL dial-up service, according to Ryder. Those residents can only access internet speeds that are below the state standard of at least 50 megabits for receiving information and 10 megabits for sending information.

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