There is a festive air in Arrowsic, Maine, after Governor Janet Mills announced on January 30th that the community will develop a publicly owned broadband network for fast, affordable, reliable connectivity. The community will receive $1.2 million in combined grant and loan funding from the USDA's ReConnect Pilot Program to connect 237 households, 20 businesses, and four farms with symmetrical fiber optic service of up to 100 Mbps.
This will be a substantial upgrade because Arrowsic currently contends with patchy DSL connections that top out at 10 Mbps download through Consolidated, with upload speeds much slower. Poor connectivity has been affecting the economy at the local level because it's a strike against Arrowsic when people are looking to relocate to the region. Community leaders approached incumbent providers, including Consolidated and Spectrum, but the national companies rejected requests to serve the rural community with a small population of only around 450. Rather than settle for antiquated, poor serve, Arrowsic decided to pursue a community broadband network.
The 3 Bridged Islands Broadband Initiative (3BIB) is a nonprofit created by the towns of Arrowsic, Georgetown, and Southport. The organization first initiated a feasibility study, explored funding opportunities, and submitted the application for USDA grant to develop the network in Arrowsic. They've worked with Axiom to develop the design for the infrastructure and, according to the 3BIB website, intend work with private sector partners to offer services via the fiber optic infrastructure.
After the approval of USDA grant, the town of Arrowsic is now determined to close the digital divide and expects to do more to boost the local economy. The town is also looking forward to providing telehealth services to older people with chronic illness, increasing students’ ability to do research and complete assignments through better Internet connections.
D.J. LaVoy, the USDA rural development deputy undersecretary said in his announcement on January 30th:
This substantial investment in broadband in Maine will help ensure that these rural, coastal, and island communities can connect to the vital Internet services that they depend on. Upgrading and installing essential broadband infrastructure will improve connectivity for critical first responders and rural businesses. It also will enhance learning opportunities for students, provide access to telehealth services and build prosperity for Maine’s iconic towns.
Once operational, the broadband will provide a qualitative boost to the lives of the people in Arrowsic. As one resident Vicky Stoneman told WGME:
Life is going to be a lot different. People can work better from home. My husband now has to go into town in order to do any kind of video conferencing or any kind of uploading.
Arrowsic is looking forward to partnering with several local companies that have the resources and have had experience of constructing and operating local broadband. This is a big news for the Arrowsic residents as they cannot wait to experience the miracle of high-quality, reliable Internet access.
High-speed Internet is no longer a luxury; it is an economic necessity. This significant federal investment builds on the work done by the state to help connect our small, rural communities to high-speed Internet and open new doors of opportunity for their residents. As we work to strengthen and diversify our economy, building out our broadband capacity will play an important role and this funding represents another welcome step forward.
Check this local coverage of the announcement: