Broadband Updates

Broadband Campaign Meetings and Conversations

This winter the Fox Islands Broadband Task Force (FIBTF) is hosting a series of events and activities as part of their Community Broadband Campaign. The goal of the Campaign is to build interest and community consensus for a universal broadband solution for Vinalhaven.

February 17, 2021 – Walt Swift, an investor and manager for fiber-optic internet systems in Lyme, NH and Cliff Island, ME (where he summers) joined FIBTF Chair Janann Sherman to talk about an investor-owned broadband model. Lyme has a population of approximately 1,700; Cliff Island, in Casco Bay, has 30 year-round and approximately 100 summer residents. Both communities share some common characteristics: low to very low internet speeds from an incumbent provider (CCI), very low population density, and a common desire for reliable high-speed internet service to enable them to sustain their town’s culture and economic life in an atmosphere of increasing reliance on high-speed communications. A secondary goal was independence from large service providers control of speed and content. The solution they chose was financing from a group of investors, organized as an LLC. Swift described the shareholders as atypical of traditional investors, in that they did not seek nor expect to make a profit from their investment. He called them “angels”: anonymous investors motivated primarily by the desire to sustain and improve the communities they live in. The investors own the network, their managers work with hired contractors to build and operate the network.
Click here to watch a recording of this presentation.
 
January 27, 2021 – Roger Heinen of the Islesboro Broadband Committee joined FIBTF Chair Janann Sherman to talk about Islesboro's municipally owned fiber system which delivers 1 gigabit service to all subscribers. Islesboro has roughly 725 homes and businesses. Islesboro's goals for developing broadband were to ensure that students have access to online learning, telemedicine be available to their aging population, businesses have resources and new markets, residents have access to entertainment and communication opportunities—"all of this is intended to enhance our ability to preserve the lifestyle we cherish by maintaining and strengthening a vibrant year-round community.” The town borrowed $3.8 million on a 20-year bond to finance the construction and installation. The town owns the infrastructure and has complete control. They contracted with GWI, a Maine-based internet company, to manage and maintain the system. Costs to the consumer for this 1 gigabit service are a $360 annual fee ($30 a month) plus property taxes to pay off the loan (roughly $8 per month per $100,000 valuation) and $25 a month for an optional unlimited local and long-distance telephone service for a total of $63 a month. The system went live in summer 2017. Click here to watch a recording of this presentation.
 

January 20, 2021 – Mark Greene, chair of the Long Island Broadband Exploratory Committee, joined FIBTF Chair Janann Sherman and over 20 zoom audience members to talk about Long's partnership with Consolidated Communications (CCI) to build a fiber network on Long Island. Explorations of cost for a municipally-owned system for their 215 full-time and nearly 1000 seasonal residents estimated a $1 million price tag. In partnership with CCI, the cost to the town is roughly half that. Consolidated will build the system; the town will provide the capital, which Consolidated will pay back by collecting an "infrastructure fee" from subscribers of roughly $15-18. Because the project is not paid for through taxation, only subscribers will bear the cost of the new system and taxes will not increase. The town will own the main infrastructure (the backbone); CCI will own the hookups to consumers (last mile). Subscriber costs for high-speed internet will be competitive and the same as any other CCI customer (no island premium).  Mark noted that the total annual "infrastructure fee" born by subscribers is significantly higher than additional tax incurred would be if the bond were to be paid off through taxation. Long Island is still finalizing the contract with CCI and hopes construction can begin this year. Click here to watch a recording of this presentation.

December 30, 2020 – FIBTF Chair Janann Sherman and Christa Thorpe, Chair of the Town of Bremen Broadband Initiative Committee, spoke about Bremen's work with Tidewater Telecom to build a fiber optic high-speed internet network to serve approximately 400 homes and businesses. Thorpe indicated that the town chose to work with Tidewater because they were a local company which demonstrated from the beginning an eagerness to work with local citizens to craft the best and fairest system possible. The partnership is 80% funded by Tidewater and 20% funded by the town, thanks to a ConnectMe infrastructure grant. Click Here to watch a recording of this conversation.

December 3, 2020 – FIBTF launched the Community Broadband Campaign with a presentation of the recently completed 2020 Broadband Report – Vinalhaven Internet Planning Document. Janann Sherman, FIBTF chair, was joined by Mark Ouellette of Axiom Technologies, Kendra Jo Grindle from the Island Institute's Broadband Team, and Vinalhaven Community Development and Engagement Coordinator, Gabe McPhail, for the live-streamed online event, which was attended by more than 25 people on Zoom and upwards of 15 on Facebook. The presentation inspired questions from participants ranging from accessing Spacex's Starlink program to the feasibility of realizing universal broadband on Vinalhaven. Click Here to watch a recording of the presentation.

Get Involved! Help Bring a Universal Broadband Solution to Vinalhaven 

Do you have troublesome internet? Maybe no internet at all? Has COVID highlighted your need to reliably work, school, and socialize from home? Want to be part of a broadband solution? Here are some ways you can get involved:

  1. Take the Broadband Speed Test. A Maine Broadband Coalition project, the broadband speed test is a simple way for Mainers to register internet speed by their location. The data collected is used to map an accurate picture of current and changing internet access in Maine. This valuable information can then be used by towns to clearly show where and how people are or are not receiving adequate internet.
  2. Share your stories. Share your data. What are your internet challenges? How would having fast reliable internet be a game changer for you? Are you a datageek? Maybe you've been collecting speed test data for years and are hoping to put that information to good use. FIBTF is collecting stories and collecting data, and we want to hear from you! Please reach out to Janann Sherman to share your insights and information.
  3. Be a Broadband Champion. Read the 2020 Broadband Report. Read the Tilson Study. Reach out to members of FIBTF. Let Town leaders know you care about a broadband solution for Vinalhaven. Talk to others who may not support universal broadband; listen and learn why. Share what you know and why you believe broadband is critical.
  4. Brush up on your Broadband Jargon! Check out our New Broadband Glossary of terms created by Janann Sherman.
  5. Keep up to date with all Campaign happenings – receive updates from FIBTF in your email inbox by going to Subscribe and clicking on Fox Islands Broadband Task Force under News or Announcements.

Questions? Comments?
Contact Gabe McPhail
Town of Vinalhaven Community Development & Engagement Coordinator