B y Jaime Thomas
Getting high-speed Internet in Hebron might not be as simple as officials previously thought.
During a meeting Monday night, Town Supervisor Brian Campbell told the town board he recently met with a representative from PrimeLink, a telecommunications company, to give him an estimate.
“I wanted a number. He came down and we drove all over the hills and valleys of Hebron. Line of sight here is going to be awful,” he said about wireless Internet installation.
Campbell said because of Hebron’s landscape and remoteness, line-of-sight Internet service is not ideal, and therefore might not be worth paying for.
“Wireless just isn’t cutting it,” he said. However, he is seriously looking into fiber optic line, which PrimeLink could potentially install for the cost of about $10,000 to $30,000 per mile. Fiber optic would follow Hebron’s roads and therefore offer direct access to most household.
“I would like to know if the public really wants to pay that to do that,” he said. “It comes down to how bad do we want high-speed Internet.”
“The grant money is really dried up. We’re not big enough for anybody to get too concerned,” Campbell said. But on Tuesday, he said he learned there might be some grant funds available after all, which could significantly impact installation feasibility.
“If we can still find a way to grant fund the majority of this, that would really be a different story financially,” he said.
He estimated that a fiber optic line might equate to 60 cents per $1,000 in taxes for residents over about 20 years, but that most of them would save roughly $50 per month on cable, phone and Internet payments. He and several members of the board discussed that the installation of fiber optic cable can be expensive, because an energy source would have to be built every five miles.
Though some residents at the meeting questioned how long such a project would take, Campbell said the company could complete work quickly.
He said he would probe further into the idea and asked the board to consider asking for proposals, instead of bids, to see how effective the project would be.
“If it’s something people really want to do, let’s make it available. I don’t want to spend taxpayers’ money to do something that could only covers 10 to 20 percent of people—that’s nuts to do that. It would have to cover everybody,” he said.
Before making any decisions, Campbell said it would be best to put the idea on a ballot to let voters decide what they are willing to support.