After often hearing the statement that there are many New Gloucester residents without computers and internet access, I was curious. I know of three local people who choose to remain computer-free, but how many are there, actually?
According to the US Census “Quick Facts” for 2015-19, the most recent data available:
• 98% of New Gloucester households have a computer; and
• 91.3% have a broadband subscription
For the few who don’t have internet access at home, public wireless access is available at the New Gloucester Public Library (inside and in the parking lot). Computers are available for public use inside the library. And anyone with a smart phone can access the internet, anywhere.
ConnectME, a state agency focused on ensuring that internet access is available to all communities throughout the state, reports that New Gloucester is “fully covered” as of 2021, based on internet service provider data reported to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Of course, we know that there are pockets of people who are not connected to broadband and would like to be, such as the families on Beaver Dam Road who recently asked the Select Board to sign off on a grant application to extend access to their homes. “Providers know who they serve, but not who they don’t serve,” explained Peggy Shaffer of ConnectME.
The options for people to connect are changing quickly. There are three internet providers in town, none of which publicizes the number of subscribers they serve. Each uses a different technology.
— Spectrum is still the largest provider in New Gloucester, offering hard-wired broadband access, as well as cable TV and phone service over coax cable/fiber with copper wire to homes. Spectrum also offers two discount programs for income-qualified subscribers. Learn more here and here.
— Otelco, (originally Pine Tree Telephone Co.) has provided phone and DSL dial-up internet service to New Gloucester and Gray residents for many years. Otelco is now building a fiber network in the most densely populated ‘swath” of the town, which should be completed this spring. Fiber (glass) provides faster and more stable service. DSL (dial up) access, which runs on copper cable, will continue to be available throughout New Gloucester until they can expand their fiber network.
— Redzone recently started offering fixed wireless internet connectivity in town, through antennas on poles that are then connected to a wireless modem inside homes. The pole-mounted antennas communicate with a larger antenna on the Gloucester Hill cell tower. The company will assess the feasibility of this system for an individual home, based on sight lines to the tower.
And if you’re in a location so remote that none of these are feasible, there’s satellite internet service. (I don’t know of any local users.) Providers such as Starlink provide all of the equipment you need to connect via satellite, anywhere on the planet, as long as you have access to a clear sky.
It might be time to review your own internet service and learn about evolving options.
UPDATE: Since this article was published, the author has learned that two families on Old Durham Road use Starlink satellite internet services.
Thanks to Peggy Shaffer of ConnectME, Tracey Scheckel of Otelco, Lara Pritchard of Spectrum, and Jeri Vitale of Redzone for answering my questions.