Ellsworth, Maine, Celebrates Fiber Lighting

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-the-Home (FTTH) back in 2015, but determined that a community-wide project was cost prohibitive. After consideration, they chose to make the three-mile fiber investment as a first step; their design allows for future expansion so more businesses and perhaps residences can connect to the network.

Ellsworth’s population is only about 7,700 but the community is growing quickly. The network will help the town focus on attracting well-paying jobs while providing better opportunities for telehealth, home-based businesses, and better educational opportunities for families. 

As Kerem Durag from GWI said at the ceremony, “Ellsworth has plugged in.”