Related Article Golden Hosts Congressional Hearing on Rural Broadband
By Sarah Craighead-Dedmon
Some addresses in Baileyville have only days, not weeks, to wait for high-speed internet access, said Downeast Broadband Utility board member Chris Loughlin.
“Some addresses in town are ready for service right now, other addresses it may be as late as October, November,” said Loughlin. “The further out you are, the later your connection.”
Earlier this year Calais received its green light from Maine Fiber. Downeast Broadband Utility (DBU) is waiting on some signatures, then expects to move forward with wiring all of Baileyville for access to fiber.
The vision of running of dark fiber or fiber optic cables began in late 2015 with a conversation between Calais Mayor Billy Howard and Pierre Little, the publisher of this newspaper. Howard, a councilor at the time, asked what would be the one thing that would benefit Calais and the surrounding area the most for economic development projects and Little replied, installing dark fiber and fiber optics for high-speed broadband internet and owning the pipes.
With that idea, Downeast Economic Development studied it and agreed and began this important investment to promote jobs and economic opportunities for Calais and Downeast Maine’s future. Recognizing the lack of sufficient broadband in the area was the primary reason and the vision of creating a municipal broadband network began.
“We’ve each gone about our business separately in the past, but I think once they formed Downeast Economic Development, one of the first things they realized without broadband, this area isn’t going to see much change,” said Loughlin.
DBU was formed in 2017 as a partnership between Calais and Baileyville, who own the nonprofit together. Each town has their own individual network.
Currently, Pioneer Broadband has signed on as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who will facilitate the customer connection to the network, including billing and customer service. However, the network itself will remain the property and responsibility of DBU.
Ultimately, other ISPs are able to tap into the network, which would offer Baileyville and Calais customers a choice of services.
“Each ISP would pay the same rate to the utility, and that way they could service their customers, and we could see competition within town for those various addresses,” said Loughlin. “That will mean money coming in.”
That money will be used, said Loughlin, to pay for the upkeep of the physical network and to repay the loan so that the cost of the installation will not come out of the taxpayers’ pockets.
Last week Loughlin was one of four witnesses called to testify in a congressional hearing convened in Machias by Congressman Jared Golden (D-ME) and Congressman Peter Stauber (R-MN), both members of the House Committee on Small Business. Loughlin, who is also the town manager of Baileyville, attended as a representative of DBU and read testimony that urged congress to help the nation solve its pervasive issue with the “last mile” of connectivity to its fiber network.
Reps. Golden and Stauber are currently drafting “The Last Mile Act of 2019,” which they hope will offer grants to small businesses that need to pay to connect their structure to the nearest fiber line.
See further details on Congressman Golden’s efforts for Broadband investments on page 5.