Internet Connectivity is one of the 31 key economic indicators featured in the annual Measures of Growth Report. Each month this blog features a story that connects the data to real-life experience and the individuals, organizations, and communities who are helping Maine tackle longstanding issues and capitalize on opportunities.
When you visualize lightning-fast, reliable internet connectivity, you probably think of a hip, open-concept office space in a San Francisco skyscraper, right? Well picture this: as of June, 2023, the 830 internet customers in the rural Maine communities of Baileyville, Calais, Alexander, and Indian Township boast some of the fastest internet connections in the world.
By summer of 2024, 920 homes and businesses stand to join them from the tiny towns of Cooper and Princeton.
It’s a remarkable 21st Century accomplishment achieved with centuries old tried-and-true Maine ingenuity, innovation, and neighbors coming together in the form of the first municipality-owned broadband entity called Downeast Broadband Utility.
The Downeast Broadband Utility (DBU) emerged in 2018 in an effort to provide businesses who were interested in opening up shop in the towns with the necessary reliable fiber broadband, despite two established providers declining to extend their services to the communities.
The communities had an untapped fiber network in place as part of the state’s Three Ring Binder project, a 1,100-mile network of fiber laid throughout rural areas that was completed in 2012. In order to connect every household and enable providers to offer high-speed internet at no additional network expense, the two municipalities banded together and committed $2.5 million. Local service provider Pioneer Broadband joined the effort and construction began in Baileyville and Calais in 2018, and within 24 months every household had access to a fiber connection. In 2020, nearby Alexander voted to join the DBU, followed by Indian Township in 2021.
Andrew Butcher, president of the Maine Connectivity Authority
By reconceiving internet as a public utility, these municipalities are showing that innovation is as much about mentality as technology. Through creative collaboration, they have connected themselves to the internet, the world, and opportunity.
Municipalities across the state including Baring, Eastport, Pleasant Point, Perry, Charlotte, Meddybemps, Pembroke, Whiting and Lubec are exploring the model, as are some from as far away as Texas. Downeast Broadband Utility will provide the paperwork required to establish a similar municipal broadband utility for free.
You can watch Tim McAfee, CEO of Pinoeer Broadband, tell the story of how Downeast Broadband and it continued growth through community collaboration by clicking the video image to the right or clicking here.