Tag: "maine"

Posted October 23, 2018 by lgonzalez

As Election Day draws near, voters in 36 states and three territories are set to choose governors. In Maine, gubernatorial candidates are making rural broadband a key issue. All four candidates agree that the state needs to be involved in some way, and each recently gave the Press Herald a summary of their plan to expand high-quality connectivity to constituents, if elected.

Different Approaches

Both Independent candidates, Terry Hayes and Alan Caron have suggested state investment. Hayes would like to earmark $100 million annually for four years to deploy fiber networks and capitalize on public-private partnerships. Caron suggests a statewide network, funded by $100 million in bonding his first term and a second term if he were re-elected, to connect every city and town.

The Republican candidate stresses public-private partnerships with an emphasis on encouraging private companies to invest in rural areas. The candidate, Shawn Moody, believes that using federal and state funds as the carrot for private sector Internet access companies will be enough to bring rural connectivity up to speed.

Janet Mills, running as the Democratic candidate, has a plan that seems consistent with some of the current activity in Maine. She wants to create Broadband Expansion Districts, that will allow rural communities to band together to expand and administer their own broadband connectivity. She goes on to state that those districts would be eligible for grants. Mills also sees a particular need to address coastal areas where national providers see not profit in upgrading services. She wants to look into establishing “broadband regional hubs.”

Mills’s approach appears a little more consistent with the regional efforts in Baileyville and Calais, the Downeast Broadband Utility. The two rural communities joined forces to create their own dark fiber utility when incumbents wouldn’t bring the services they needed. Recently Cumberland County released an RFP for a similar regional approach.

Dealing With It

As a mostly rural state, the problem of the urban/rural...

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Posted October 8, 2018 by lgonzalez

Local governments in Maine have been going all out in the past few years to address the problem of lack of high-quality Internet access in rural areas. Now, Cumberland County is using Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help develop a resource they hope will assist local communities interested in publicly owned Internet access infrastructure. They’ve released a Request for Proposals (RFP) to Develop Regional Broadband Planning and Management; proposals are due October 31, 2018.

Read the full RFP here.

The Playbook

Elected officials in Cumberland County report that local community leaders from different towns throughout the county have expressed an interest in a regional initiative for better connectivity. At least four towns and the Greater Portland area have been working to develop broadband plans with an eye toward regional possibilities. This RFP is an effort to bring all those separate plans together and examine the possibility of a regional utility.

The county has determined that the playbook should provide information in three main areas: resource mapping, financing, and utility development. 

Information to be included in the document will provide estimated costs and challenges of building fiber networks to each municipality in Cumberland County. This mapping portion of the playbook should compare last mile connectivity costs to middle mile network costs, consider specific plans for some of the county’s hard-to-reach areas, and examine working with privately owned fiber that is currently in place.

County officials want respondents to investigate and propose ways to finance a regional utility. They also want to know more about models that include both publicly owned and privately owned infrastructure. As part of the playbook, county officials expect a survey of residents in Cumberland County.

logo-DBU.jpg Lastly, the county wants a resource that will help local communities band together to form a broadband utility that can serve the region. According to the RFP, county officials...

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Posted July 24, 2018 by lgonzalez

While smaller communities in Maine are laying plans to develop community broadband networks for high-quality Internet access, the state’s third largest city indicated a shift in how they view fiber optic connectivity. At a recent city council meeting, Bangor elected officials passed a resolution declaring, “Fiber and access to the Internet is an essential service in the City of Bangor, Maine.”

Read the full resolution here.

When council members passed the measure, they didn’t dedicate any funding toward community broadband or authorize a specific approach, but Councilor Tyler Collins stated, “It just sets a baseline that identifies we are prepared to do more research on this project.”

The city council has heard ideas on fiber optic deployment throughout the community for at least three years and they’re now looking closer at an open access model in which ISPs deliver Internet service to the public. Property owners connected to the infrastructure would pay a utility fee, as they do now for sewer or water, and would also pay an ISP for Internet access.

City Manager Cathy Conlow:

“They’re still able to pick their provider, but it would run over city fiber. It would ensure better coverage over the city, better speeds, consistent speeds and more stable pricing.”

At this point, Conlow describes their status as “exploring.”

Mainers Are Doing It

Over the past year, Maine has been a flurry of community broadband activity. In Baileyville and Calais, the rural towns are joining forces to develop their own dark fiber utility in the hopes of attracting ISPs to serve businesses and residents. Sanford has decided on a way to fund some surprises that slowed its network deployment, and Ellsworth...

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Posted July 12, 2018 by Hannah Rank

The City of Sanford, Maine, is putting the final pieces of funding in place to move forward with its ambitious 45-mile fiber optic build, SandfordNet, the largest fiber infrastructure build proposed in Maine to date. 

Along with two other funding sources, the project will be financed by an existing Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district in downtown Sanford. According to the Journal Tribune, the project will cost $2.02 million in total to complete; that figure is higher than initially projected, due in part to fees to access utility poles. 

The SanfordNet project involves building what the city describes as a “fourth redundant ring” that will attach to the statewide fiber loop known as the “Three Ring Binder.” Sanford’s building out the 45 miles of fiber and then connecting it to the Binder, which is about nine miles beyond city limits. The fiber will connect nearly 90 Community Anchor Institutions (CAIs), such as libraries and hospitals, to the infrastructure that will offer 10 Gigabit per second symmetrical upload and download capacity. The city is utilizing an open access model, leasing out its fiber to ISPs in a non-discriminatory approach that promotes competition.

GWI of Biddeford, Maine, will operate the network for Sanford and intends to offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) to residential premises along the fiber route in areas where there's sufficient demand. The open access model will create the opportunity for competition, creating better rates and better services for Mainers in the region. For more on what has become known as the "Maine Model," check out Christopher's conversation with GWI's CEO Fletcher Kittredge, episode 214 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast.

Where the Project Stands

...

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Posted June 6, 2018 by lgonzalez

The Maine towns of Baileyville and Calais are known for their beautiful scenery and their clean rural lifestyle; soon the region will also be known for its broadband. The two communities have joined together to form the Downeast Broadband Utility (DBU) in order to develop a regional fiber optic network for businesses and residents. Julie Jordan, Director of DBU has joined Christopher this week to talk about the project.

Like many other rural areas in Maine, the towns found that for decades they have had difficulty attracting and retaining businesses and new residents. Community leaders recognize that the poor Internet infrastructure in the area is one of the root causes and aim to amend the problem. By working together, Baileyville and Calais can achieve what would have been extremely difficult for each to do on their own. Once community leaders began investigating what it would take to create a publicly owned network and the benefits that would result, they realized that they had the ability to improve local connectivity. Julie discusses how they've dealt with some of the challenges they've faced and how they're preparing to contend with potential difficulties.

The Post Road Foundation, a nonprofit researching the possibilities of sustainable infrastructure, broadband connectivity, and investment, will be working with DBU. The organization is looking at ways to increase rural deployment across the U.S. DBU is one of several communities partnering with the Post Road Foundation to document discoveries that may help drive investment.

This show is 26 minutes long and can be played on this page or via iTunes or the tool of your choice using this feed.

Read the transcript for this show here.

You can download this mp3 file directly from here. Listen to ...

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Posted May 25, 2018 by lgonzalez

Over the past year, towns in rural areas of Maine have mobilized and are taking steps to improve local connectivity. The latest is the community of Penobscot, where the local Broadband Committee recently released a Request for Information (RFI) to seek out firms interested in helping them bring broadband to the coastal community. Responses are due by July 11, 2018.

Read the RFI.

Design and (Perhaps) Implementation

Primarily, the Committee seeks to find a firm interested in providing engineering design. Penobscot clearly states that their goal is to bring symmetrical service to every premise, that speeds are consistent and reliable, and that they expect to see proposals suggesting speeds higher than the FCC’s 25/3 broadband standard.

Like many of the smaller towns in rural Maine and elsewhere, Penobscot isn’t jumping at the chance to operate their own fiber optic network. They're hoping that respondents will be ISPs interested in also operating the network and offering services via the infrastructure.

Goals for Penobscot

According to the RFI, many of the 1,200 year-round residents support themselves with home-based businesses, one of the many sectors that require faster upload speeds for day-to-day operations. In addition to craft and artisans, seasonal businesses cater to tourists that visit each year. People in Penobscot feel that it’s time to take steps to attract younger families to keep the community alive and thriving and Penobscot understands that broadband is a priority for their target demographic. They also want to convince seasonal visitors to stay longer or relocate and free public Wi-Fi is a priority.

logo-penobscot-me.png Other Maine towns, such as Rockport and Sandford, are investing in broadband; communities that continue to rely on slow DSL and cable networks will have a harder time competing for...

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Posted April 27, 2018 by lgonzalez

Nestled along the south eastern border of Maine are Baileyville and Calais. As rural communities situated next to Canada in the state's "Downeast" region, neither town is on a list of infrastructure upgrades from incumbents. With an aging population, a need to consider their economic future, and no hope of help from big national ISPs, Baileyville and Calais are joining forces and developing their own publicly owned broadband utility.

Baileyville and Calais

There are about 3,000 residents in Calais (pronounced "Kal-iss") and 1,500 in Baileyville, but according to Julie Jordan, Director of Downeast Economic Development Corporation (DEDC), many of those residents are aging and younger people find little reason to stay or relocate in Washington County. The community recognizes that they need to draw in new industries and jobs that will attract young families to keep the towns from fading off the map.

Most of the residents in the region must rely on slow DSL from Consolidated Communications (formerly FairPoint), while a few have access to cable from Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable); expensive and unreliable satellite is also an option and there's some limited fixed wireless coverage in the area. A few larger businesses that require fiber optic connectivity can find a way to have it installed, but Julie tells us that it's incredibly expensive in the area and most can't afford the high rates for fiber.

Economic Development Driven

logo-baileyville-me.png Organized in 2015, the nonprofit DEDC came together with the focus on recruiting new businesses to the area and to support existing businesses. As DEDC quickly discovered, unless the region could offer high-speed, reliable Internet infrastructure, attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses expand would be extremely difficult. They also determined that new families would not be interested in Baileyville or Calais without high-quality connectivity. "It was a no-brainer," says Julie, "you have to go fiber."

One of the largest regional employers, Woodland Pulp, need fiber in order to operate and as Julie describes, "they pay up the nose" for connectivity. All their equipment is computerized and they...

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Posted April 18, 2018 by lgonzalez

When the announcement came out in 2015 that Sanford, Maine, would invest in the state’s largest municipal fiber optic network, media outlets were abuzz with the news. The situation has quieted down as the community has been working to plan for the project. Earlier this month, Sanford released its second Request for Proposals (RFP) for Fiber Optic Construction for the network; responses are due May 2nd.

Read the RFP here.

Second Shot

Back when the city began the process of investing in publicly owned Internet infrastructure, they conducted an original RFP process and selected a construction firm. Before the project began, however, Sanford won a significant award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and, according to the EDA, the city’s RFP process did not conform to EDA bid process requirements. In order to accept the award, the city needs to re-run to RFP process.

The project will cost approximately $1.5 million and, with the federal grant slated to pay for around half at $769,000, Sanford officials see the benefit of taking the time to release a second RFP. The city will use proceeds from the sale of a former school property to fund the remaining. They anticipate construction to begin in July and estimate the project will be completed and the network will be ready to operate by November.

As the RFP states, the project will connect approximately 85 community anchor institutions (CAIs) to a network of about 40 miles of fiber and to the state’s middle mile Three Ring Binder. In addition to City Hall, they intend to connect schools, healthcare facilities, libraries, and public works buildings. There are also a significant number of business locations on the list of addresses that Sanford officials want connected to the network. The community has already chosen Maine’s GWI to operate the open access network. 

You can listen to our conversation with CEO Fletcher Kittredge in episode 176 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. He and Christopher discuss Sanford...

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Posted September 27, 2017 by lgonzalez

A recent proposal being considered by the FCC that has raised the loudest outcry has been the status of mobile broadband in rural areas. Now that Verizon is discontinuing rural subscriber accounts, the FCC will be able to see those concerns come to life.

Dear John...

The company has decided to cut service to scores of customers in 13 states because those subscribers have used so many roaming charges, Verizon says it isn’t profitable for the company. Service will end for affected subscribers after October 17th.

Verizon claims customers who use data while roaming via other providers’ networks create roaming costs that are higher than what the customers pay for services. In rural communities, often mobile wireless is the best (albeit poor) or only option for Internet access, so subscribers use their phones to go online.

Subscribers are from rural areas in Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wisconsin.

In a letter sent to customers scheduled to be cut off, Verizon offered no option, such as paying more for more data or switching to a higher cost plan. Many of the people affected were enrolled in unlimited data plans:

“During a recent review of customer accounts, we discovered you are using a significant amount of data while roaming off the Verizon Wireless network. While we appreciate you choosing Verizon, after October 17th, 2017, we will no longer offer service for the numbers listed above since your primary place of use is outside the Verizon service area.”

Affecting Customers And Local Carriers

Apparently, Verizon’s LTE in Rural America (LRA) program, which creates partnerships with 21 other carriers, is the culprit. The agreements it has with the other carriers through the program allows Verizon subscribers to use those networks when they use roaming data, but Verizon must pay the carriers’ fees. Verizon has confirmed that they will disconnect 8,500 rural customers who already have little options for connectivity.

Philip Dampier at Stop The Cap! writes:

Verizon has leased out LTE spectrum covering 225,000 square miles in 169 rural counties in 15 different states. The company said more than 1,000 LTE cell sites have been...

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Posted September 7, 2017 by lgonzalez

Two and a half years ago, the city council in Ellsworth, Maine, voted to take the first steps toward better connectivity through a publicly owned fiber optic network. On August 29th, the community held a “Lighting Presentation” to kick off the realization of its vision.

Already Serving Businesses

The three-mile open access network is already serving local establishments and the Union River Center for Innovation, but local officials and business leaders gathered with U.S. Senator Angus King for the ceremony to celebrate.

“Connectivity levels the playing field for those of us who are small business owners,” said State Senator and local business owner Brian Langley.

Ellsworth obtained a $250,000 grant for the project from the Northern Border Regional Commission. In addition to approximately $28,000 in tax increment financing (TIF), the city council decided early in the planning process to dedicate $30,000 to the project to extend it an additional mile. Ellsworth obtained additional capital when it sold property that was the site of a former community owned nursing home. In total, Ellsworth contributed $110,000 to the project costs.

Keeping It Local

Ellsworth owns the new infrastructure and Maine’s GWI is using the fiber to provide Internet access to businesses and institutions along the route. GWI, which is also working with other Maine communities like Sanford, Islesboro, and South Portland, is the first of what Ellsworth hopes will be several ISPs to use the infrastructure.

The main purpose of the investment is to stimulate economic development by improving connectivity services and prices for potential employers. Ellsworth commissioned a feasibility study to examine the possibility of Fiber-to...

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