Islesboro in Penobscot Bay has taken a major step toward becoming Maine’s most “wired” island community.

Residents of the island, east of Northport and Lincolnville, voted Saturday at their annual town meeting to spend more than $200,000 on an engineering study and other steps to connect homes and businesses with fiber-optic “gigabit” Internet service.

Longtime island resident Page Clason, a communications technology professional who was influential in putting the Internet project to a public vote, said small communities such as Islesboro need to take the initiative to compete economically with big cities.

Islesboro is about 14 miles long and has roughly 600 year-round residents. Its population swells to about 2,000 in the summer. Clason said nearly 200 residents showed up to vote at Saturday’s meeting, and that at least three-fourths approved the $206,830 expenditure in a show-of-hands vote to begin the process of improving Internet service.

The money will fund an initial engineering study, as well as the process of selecting a contractor to build the network, Islesboro Selectman Arch Gillies said.

The town expects to ultimately sign an Internet service contract with Biddeford-based Internet service provider GWI, he said. GWI already is working with Rockport and South Portland to install fiber-optic Internet connections in those communities. Such connections are capable of data speeds of as high as 1 gigabit per second, both upload and download.


Clason said improving Islesboro’s Internet service is particularly important to economic development, because the fixed wireless and DSL Internet services currently available have proved unreliable in some areas.

“It’s really spotty,” he said. “It depends on where you are.”

Saturday’s vote was only the first half of a two-step process, Gillies said. Town officials plan to hold a second public vote in the fall on 20-year municipal bond for up to $3 million that would fund the network’s construction, he said.

Clason said the town hopes to have gigabit Internet service up and running by the end of 2016. Although the cost to residents has yet to be determined, Clason said it is likely such a service would range in price from $35 to $125 a month depending on each customer’s desired maximum speed.

Gillies said it was encouraging that so many island residents of all ages and backgrounds supported the project’s first phase.

“We’re a community intent on keeping up with the world, and maybe getting ahead of the world,” he said.

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