DDC Members Discuss Internet Accessibility

Published: August 15, 2020

CUMBERLAND — Now is the time to consider addressing issues of accessibility before renovations begin on Baltimore Street in the city’s downtown, officials said during Thursday’s meeting of the Downtown Development Commission.

As of the last update he received, outgoing Cumberland Economic Development Corp. Director Paul Kelly said the plan was still to begin construction on the pedestrian mall in March 2021. State highway officials are “working hard, working diligently, but COVID has certainly put a kink in everybody’s planning,” Kelly said before deferring to city director of engineering Robert Smith for more details.

Smith said they are still shooting for the spring, but the possibility of a delay exists nonetheless and “it may be out of our hands.”

“I wish I could tell you we’re going to start on a certain date or be constructing in front of a business on a certain date, but that’s not possible right now,” Smith said.

In the meanwhile, Smith said, in addition to weighing how they’d like to receive internet access when the time comes, businesses affected should begin looking at how to best modernize fire protection in their buildings, especially those in the block between Centre and Liberty streets. It’s “less critical” for businesses elsewhere on the mall, Smith said, because their water supply will not be as affected by construction.

Member Larry Jackson said he’d like to see communication about what building owners should expect during construction and how to access fiber and water.

“I know as a building owner it would be good if I had a little flyer or thing in front of me,” Jackson said. “I think as the DDC we should be diligent about making sure that that’s a very easy process, not difficult, especially for some of the owners who aren’t around all the time.”

City Council member Laurie Marchini asked what it would cost businesses to connect to fiber internet once it’s available. Smith said it would likely come down to individual agreements between the business and the internet provider, as it wouldn’t be a city-provided utility, only the tools with which to access it. The providers haven’t been identified yet, Kelly said.

The DDC will meet next on Sept. 10.

Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.

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