Stowe will take part in a Lamoille County Planning Commission study of broadband service availability in the town and the feasibility of being part of a public internet utility district to provide services to unserved or underserved residents.

So far, the study includes Belvidere, Cambridge, Eden, Hyde Park, Johnson, Waterville and Wolcott, which are working to form a public internet utility.

The study will cost the town government nothing and determine if areas of Stowe could benefit from a public internet service.

The study carries no obligation to join a utility district, but Charles Safford, town manager, recommended the select board be cautious and weigh the benefits and costs of joining.

The study should be completed over the next four months.

While most of those towns have swaths of residents unable to get high-speed internet, Stowe has a variety of internet providers. Stowe Cable provides cutting-edge speeds, up to a gigabyte in upload and download.

Before the meeting, Rick Rothammer, Stowe Cable’s president, said joining a public utility would hurt the effort to expand access in town.

“Stowe Cable Systems is better equipped to provide state-of-the-art broadband and fiber products and a more focused and consistent annual expansion plan than can be had by the town starting anew,” he said. “Joining the Lamoille Fiber Communications District would in fact have the opposite effect on expansion.”

Safford said the town doesn’t know whether joining would help or hinder the residents of Stowe and it was ultimately up the board, but stressed joining would be a serious obligation.

“There are several programs we’re bound to and can’t get out of,” he said.

“It’s a slippery slope. I just know how things go and I don’t want us to be a cash cow for Lamoille County,” said Billy Adams, the board vice chair.

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