Legislative changes and funding in Maine in the last year have made it easier for local communities to consider municipal broadband options. While incumbent providers have been pushing back, local communities are pulling themselves forward.
Setting the Stage
A champion of community-driven broadband, Andrew Butcher, president of the newly created Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA), is leading the state's $250 million effort to expand broadband access in Maine, as Butcher discussed the state's new strategy in our Community Broadband Bits podcast last January. That amount includes $20 million in state funds from the Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan and $130 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan. The state will also be getting in excess of $100 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
There has been push back from national providers who have campaigned at the local level to encourage local governments and policy makers to stop community broadband in its tracks, as we have covered here and here. And yet, despite those efforts, a number of communities across the state have started to make strides toward building publicly-owned, locally-controlled networks.
Here is a snapshot of the activity:
Western Maine: Mahoosuc Region
The Mahoosuc Community Broadband Committee is a collaboration of Woodstock, Greenwood, Bethel, Newry, and Gilead, and Albany and Milton townships in picturesque Western Maine. Working with Casco Bay Advisors on a feasibility study, the committee recommended going with a fiber optic network, choosing FirstLight as their provider partner. Based on their final report shared last spring, the total projected cost of the project is almost $10...Read more