Islesboro Voters OK Constrution of Maine’s First "Gigabit Island"

  • GWI
ISLESBORO, ME — Residents of the island town of Islesboro, east of Northport and Lincolnville in Penobscot Bay, voted Saturday to construct and operate a municipally owned fiber-optic gigabit Internet service that will connect homes and businesses for an estimated annual fee of $360 per user, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Islesboro is about 14 miles long and has roughly 565 year-round residents. Its population swells to about 2,000 in the summer. A total of 168 residents attended Saturday’s meeting, and the vote was 145-23 in favor of the Internet service.

From $30 DSL to $30 Fiber
Islesboro Town Manager Janet Anderson said the $360 annual fee, which works out to $30 a month, is based on a subscriber base of at least 500 homes and businesses. If fewer residents subscribe, the price could be higher. Still, Anderson noted, many residents are paying more than $30 for phone and DSL Internet service that tops out at 30 Mbps. Islesboro residents and business owners do not have to sign up for the service, but those that opt out initially and change their minds later will have to pay a higher price to subscribe. The municipal Internet service will be 1 Gbps, equivalent to 1,000 Mbps. That’s fast enough to download a 1 gigabyte video file in eight seconds.

Bond-funded Network
As part of Saturday’s vote, residents authorized the town to borrow up to $3.8 million to build the network, Anderson said. To repay the bonds, the town will increase property taxes by an amount that has yet to be determined, she said. All property owners will be subject to the tax increase, whether or not they use the Internet service.

The cost to build the infrastructure would have been much higher if Central Maine Power Co. had not already laid down electrical conduit between Islesboro and the mainland, she said. That conduit also will serve as the island’s Internet pipeline.

At their previous town meeting in May 2015, Islesboro residents approved a $206,830 expenditure to fund an initial engineering study, as well as the process of selecting a contractor to build the network. Since then, the town has selected Nashua, New Hampshire-based Waveguide Inc. as the contractor. It also has chosen Biddeford-based Internet service provider GWI to operate the network. Anderson said town officials don’t yet know how soon the new service would be up and running. The initial estimate was summer 2017, she said, but it could take longer.

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