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City of Lebanon says a new project will bring broadband to every home by December 2022

N.H. Electric Cooperative members support adding broadband access to the utility's mission.
Wikimedia Commons

Each of Lebanon’s homes could soon have a broadband connection. On Monday, city officials joined U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster (D-N.H.) to announce a project to connect 142 homes without high-speed internet to the service.

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Lebanon Mayor Timothy McNamara said the lack of high-speed internet access has been especially difficult for parents with children attending online school during the pandemic.

“[Full broadband coverage] will allow us to have really equitable opportunities for all our residents for both remote learning, telehealth, and remote working,” he said.

The project is separate from another effort in Grafton County to connect rural communities with broadband, though city officials say they have worked with the Grafton County Broadband Committee on their project and support those efforts. That effort has faced challenges from internet providers who say they are already providing services.

The city took a different approach from Grafton County, said city manager Shaun Mullholland. The county project is focusing on communities with little to no broadband coverage, while Lebanon is filling in gaps of an area mostly covered by high-speed services. Between three and four percent of homes in Lebanon are not connected to high-speed internet, according to city officials.

Rep. Kuster compared efforts to expand broadband access to the push to bring electricity to rural communities in the 1930s.

“We need to consider a similar approach in rural broadband, where there [are] sufficient incentives and funding and resources to convince private companies to come in and take this on,” she said.

At the event, Lebanon city officials and Rep. Kuster also discussed projects to support efforts to improve childcare access in the region.

The project is funded, in part, by American Rescue Plan Act funds, with $60,000 of the $595,000 coming from those federal funds. Comcast is funding the remainder of the project, according to city manager Shaun Mulholland.

Generally, residents with long driveways must pay a fee for an additional extension of service, but for this project, residents will not need to pay out of pocket for those extensions, Mulholland said.

City officials say the households currently without broadband should have it by December 2022.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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