BIDDEFORD — In a report released Wednesday, the CEO of a Biddeford-based Internet service provider said that Maine ranks only above Montana for its quality and availability of high-speed Internet access.

In his position paper, “10 Recommendations for Improving Maine’s Inferior Broadband Standing,” Fletcher Kittredge, chief executive officer of GWI, said public policy is to blame. Current policy may “doom the state to a difficult economic future,” according to a news release.

Because of its distance from the nation’s commercial centers, Maine is at a competitive disadvantage. With better broadband service, the distance won’t matter, according to the release, but without it Maine could become an “economic afterthought.”

“Think of (geographical barriers) as a rural tax,” writes Kittredge. “Every advance in telecommunications effectively shrinks distances, allows rural areas to participate more fully in the economy and lowers costs of delivering services. Upgrading Maine’s Internet infrastructure is a way of reducing the rural tax and makes it possible for Maine to exceed rather than trail the national average for economic growth.”

In addition to making new and existing businesses competitive, better broadband access is important for all Mainers to participate in the world economy and for government, health care and education to serve citizens cost-effectively, he wrote.

From his research on Maine’s poor broadband infrastructure, Kittredge concluded that the rest of the world is developing broadband capacity at a much faster rate than the state and that the poor infrastructure “is probably already having a negative impact on the state’s economic activity,” which will grow over time.

However, there is good news.

Kittredge believes that Maine can improve its broadband infrastructure. One way is by looking to what other states are doing.

There are a number of hindrances to building better broadband infrastructure in Maine, he said. In many areas, phone companies and cable companies finance the fiber infrastructure, but Maine’s major telecommunication’s company Fairpoint is financially weak and Time Warner Cable, which serves 90 percent of Maine has no real competition and thus no real incentive to invest, he reported.

However, stated Kittredge, there are ways to build world-class broadband infrastructure in Maine.

Funding is an obstacle, but, he said, “the revenue generated by Maine’s telecommunications infrastructure is already great enough to cover the cost of building and operating a far superior network.”

The problem isn’t building the new network, but building it without interrupting existing service while also being fair, stated Kittredge.

He made a number of recommendations on how to build better infrastructure

One is using a $67 million subsidy Fairpoint is requesting the Public Utilities Commission approve for a fiber network rather than copper wiring for landline telephone service.

Another is to encourage communities to invest in municipal fiber networks.

Some other recommendations include getting the Maine congressional delegation to secure federal support, using state funds for strategical broadband  projects and setting a broadband capacity goal that is at least average with Maine’s competitor states.

Those interested in the issue can visit the website

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

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