Council chair Sprague talks Bangor, public WiFi at UMaine

By Liam Nee (@LiamNee)

Last week, Bangor City Council chairman Ben Sprague spoke to a University of Maine journalism capstone class partnering with the Bangor Daily News on Bangor2020, a project aimed at making the city of Bangor a more livable city.

Sprague’s recently published “38 ideas to attract entrepreneurs, families to the Queen City” is expected to be a useful piece to the planning and approach methods used by both the class and Bangor Daily News.

Fourth-year student Cameron Paquette, News Editor of UMaine’s student run newspaper The Maine Campus, asked Sprague about the possibility of adding Google Fiber or a similar municipal wireless network to the city of Bangor.

Sprague is a strong supporter of a potential public WiFi system, but understands there are challenges that come with the implementation process.

“High-speed internet would be a game changer, but there will most likely issues related with both the cost and timing,” Sprague said. “Bangor’s streets are geared toward horse and buggy and its sewers were installed before the Civil War.”

Funding, specifically, would be the biggest roadblock, according to Sprague.

“In the 90s, money was much more available. Today, the budget is stretched very thin,” Sprague said. “We’re faced with a major dilemma: The economy is tough for a lot of people, so we can’t raise taxes, but where do you get money for something like this?”

Sprague said the only realistic option is raising the city’s property tax, however, he realizes Bangorians already pay too much.

“We produce more sales tax than any other city — even Portland,” Sprague said. “Unfortunately, almost 100 percent of it goes straight to the state budget. A small portion comes back through a process called revenue sharing, but not nearly enough.”

With the rapid growth of 21st century technology continuing to sweep the nation, public city WiFi could very well become an expected service within the next couple of decades, especially with the increasing reliance on services provided through the internet.