Progress Continues with Fiber Optic Internet Expansion

Presenting Scoutmaster Ray Smale with a check for $1,250 is Jim Porter, a member of Downeast Broadband Utility's Board of Directors. The utility made the donation to the Friends of the Scouts in thanks for their usage of the utility pole on their property. (Submitted photo)

By Lura Jackson

 

Residents and businesses in Calais and Baileyville have been waiting with bated breath as efforts to expand the immediate fiber optic internet network in both municipalities are underway. The project – which necessitated the development of the Downeast Broadband Utility [DBU], jointly-owned by both municipalities – is making steady progress in enabling access to significantly faster internet at a generally lower cost than most current plans offer.

At present, DBU has successfully secured agreements with the owners of the utility poles that provide the basic infrastructure of the network, Director Julie Jordan provided. Most of the poles are owned by Consolidated Communications and Eastern Maine Electric Cooperative. The single exception was a lone pole located off of Scouting Way in Calais, which is owned by the Friends of the Scouts.

The Friends of the Scouts agreed to allow usage of the pole in exchange for its upkeep, an agreement that enabled DBU to proceed without having to purchase an additional pole. In a show of appreciation for the agreement, DBU donated $1,250 to the group.

With general permission obtained to use the 2,000 poles between the two municipalities, DBU has submitted applications for their specific usage to all parties involved. Survey work has been completed on the initial 200 poles in Calais and in Baileyville, giving assessors an idea of what will be required to make the fiber active in those neighborhoods.

Consolidated Communications has since provided estimated “make ready” costs for poles on South Street, North Street, Washington Street and Main Street in Calais, which will be among the first to go live. DBU has paid the costs involved and is now waiting to hear from Consolidated Communications on when the attachment process can begin. Per Jordan, the company has up to 180 days to issue permission.

 

Once completed, the DBU project will cover 98 percent of Calais and Baileyville with the option of accessing high-speed internet through a provider of the consumer’s choice. The goal is to gradually expand outward from the municipal centers, reaching the outskirts within the next two years. The unique nature of the project – a joint municipal-owned fiber utility – makes it the first of its kind in the state, a distinction that has attracted state and national attention as communities across America are working to improve access to high-speed internet.