Fiber Broadband Moves Forward with Arrival of Buildings

Two 10’ x 20’ pre-assembled cement structures were brought in to Calais from Ohio to provide housing for infrastructure for the broadband fiber project, which is getting closer to completion every day. (Photos by Lura Jackson and Julie Jordan)

By Lura Jackson

 

The effort to bring fiber optic broadband internet to Calais and Baileyville is making strides toward making high speed, low cost internet a reality. The project, spearheaded by the Downeast Broadband Utility – unique in the state for being a jointly-managed broadband utility created by the two municipalities – now has a central physical location for its operations. Two concrete buildings were delivered and installed on June 19th in Calais providing housing for the necessary network infrastructure, and surveying is now underway on the dark fiber lines that are awaiting activation.

The two buildings, which have been established just off of Scouting Way Road, are 10’ x 20’ in size. Previously assembled in Ohio, shipped by truck, and lowered in place by a crane, the buildings will serve two purposes, according to Julie Jordan, Director of Downeast Broadband Utility. “One building will serve as a data center that houses the equipment necessary to operate the fiber optic network,” Jordan provided. “The second building will be used by internet service providers [ISPs] to store equipment necessary to service their customers.”

With the buildings installed and the surveying underway, the next step is to start constructing and connecting the network to the utility poles. Construction could begin as early as July, Jordan said, though it will depend on when the owners of the majority of the 2,000 involved poles (Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative and Consolidated Communications) give permission. Jordan said that the companies have up to 179 days to issue permission by law, and that the applications were originally filed on May 22nd.

 

Once construction starts, streets that already have dark fiber lines present (including Church Street and Washington Street) will be the first to get “lit,” Jordan said. Over the next two years, 97 percent of residences and businesses in Calais and Baileyville will be able to access the fiber network, with the remaining percentage added in as revenue allows. Individual ISPs will develop packages for customers to choose from.

The Downeast Broadband Utility was formed after concerted discussion between Calais and Baileyville, both of whom have supportive councils that view better access to high speed internet as being fundamental for economic growth in the modern era. The project will enable families to easily utilize multiple video and gaming streams in their household simultaneously, with download speeds determined by which package customers select. It will enable professionals to telecommute, meaning they could work at an organization in a far-distant city while enjoying the peace of a rural lifestyle. Another important benefit will be enabling a better telemedicine network, allowing those who need care from a distant professional to receive it in their provider’s office or in their homes.

Generally speaking, the project’s designers envisioned an approximately $50 a month cost to access download speeds of around 30 megabytes a second, which is the federal standard for broadband. The broadband utility thus represents a significant leap toward putting Calais and Baileyville in-line with national standards, which is in itself a major accomplishment. In 2017, Maine was ranked 47th in the nation for broadband access despite the state’s focus on improving it.

The Calais portion of the broadband utility will be created through a $1.6 million line of credit at a rate of 1.99 percent. The utility will receive money by leasing its network to ISPs, which will in turn service individual customers.

 

To follow along with the developments of the Downeast Broadband Utility, visit www.facebook.com/downeastbroadband.