Islesboro, Maine, Finalizes Fiber Agreement To Mainland

Residents and businesses of Islesboro, Maine, are waiting eagerly to connect to their new Fiber-To-The-Home (FTTH) network this fall. Recently, the community finalized an important step when it signed an agreement with Central Maine Power Company (CMP).

One Piece Of A Larger Plan

In 2016, community leaders were already well into their efforts to bring better connectivity to the island community. They expected to lease poles from CMP to hang fiber, but CMP’s plans to install a new fiber optic line to enhance electric service soon became part of the community network design. The new cable installation was necessary to replace the original 1955 cable to the island and to to serve as a redundant line to a cable that was in stalled in 1992.

Network planners asked CMP to include a fiber line within the 3-mile undersea cable running across the Penobscot Bay. The community will lease CMP’s fiber, which will connect to the wider Internet on the mainland.

“We are delighted with CMP’s cooperation in providing our community with access to their fiber currently crossing Penobscot Bay,” said Islesboro Town Manager Janet Anderson. "This timely and affordable solution allows us to quickly complete our broadband internet system."

The Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Islesboro first began investigating how to improve Internet access on the island in 2012 with a Broadband Working Group. After three years of study, appealing to incumbents, and analyzing options, they decided to invest in publicly owned infrastructure and work with a private provider that will offer Internet access. The community voted to bond for the network, estimated to cost approximately $3.8 million.

Islesboro property owners chose to take a similar funding model as the community of Leverett, Massachusetts - accepting a slight property tax increase to finance the bond. The majority of residents in Islesboro connect via DSL form Fairpoint, which they find slow and unreliable. When they compared the cost of funding the bond for much high capacity Internet access versus the cost of poor quality DSL, the costs were similar.

Keep Progress Moving Forward

Island communities face special challenges when seeking high-quality connectivity, but Islesboro’s determined and creative approach is working for them. Not all Maine communities have had the same opportunities. In the press release announcing the agreement:

Maine Public Advocate Barry Hobbins pointed out that the state needs to continue building upon the progress it has made in recent years expanding access to broadband.

“Broadband is critical for economic development, education, and everyday tasks like banking and shopping, and the Office of the Public Advocate is committed to supporting the continued expansion of this service,” he said. “Projects like this one – where communities work with companies like Central Maine Power to upgrade infrastructure – are critical to creating the 21st Century communications infrastructure Maine needs to create a more vibrant economy.”