A committee in Arrowsic is making progress in the challenge of bringing broadband internet to the town of fewer than 500, but residents on the island community will likely have to deal with sluggish internet until next year.

According to Don Hudson, a member of the Arrowsic Broadband Authority tasked with facilitating the introduction of improved internet to the town, the committee finally met the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s requirements to gain financial funding for the project — a necessary step before construction can begin.

“In the spring, we met those requirements and set up the bank accounts, and now we’re ready to go,” said Hudson. “We weren’t able to start negotiations for an internet service provider until we had been certified by the USDA. When you step back and look at it, it’s all designed to make sure taxpayer money is spent appropriately.”

In January 2020, Arrowsic received a $1.2 million investment from the USDA to fund high-speed internet for all Arrowsic customers — about 240 households, 20 businesses and four farms.

“This will be a terrific benefit to all of us when it’s finally built, and we’re right on the cusp of that happening,” said Hudson.

The broadband committee also contracted with Machias-based Axiom Technologies to be Arrowsic’s internet service provider.

In the coming weeks, Arrowsic will begin a stage called “make ready,” when the companies who own the telephone poles that line Arrowsic’s streets — Central Maine Power and Consolidated Communications — ensure the poles can hold the new equipment that will be added to transmit broadband internet to subscribers, according to Arrowsic Broadband Authority member Don Kornrumpft.

“When we get to that important milestone, we’ll be able to go out to potential subscribers in the town and begin the process of signing them up,” said Hudson. “‘Make ready’ is the beginning of the construction marathon and then all the wires have to be hung to subscribers’ houses. Our aim is to get the construction phase of this project started and finished as soon as possible. We’re past the really slow part of the process, and we’re ready to move forward with haste.”

Hudson estimated the project could be completed by mid-2022, but that may change based on the availability of equipment and contractors to install it.

According to ConnectMaine, an organization of state government aimed at increasing the availability of broadband internet in Maine, as many as 50% of Maine’s roadways, particularly in rural areas, were considered unserved or underserved by high-speed broadband as of February 2019. ConnectMaine hopes to expand that availability to 93% by this year.

“Here we are five miles from Bath and we don’t have cable service; we never have,” said Hudson. “With so few houses, it wasn’t economically advantageous to string the cable. Now we have funding from the federal government to pay those costs to hang fiber optic cable to deliver robust internet service. People will envy us I think because of the capacity that’s being provided to this community.”

Kornrumpft said the COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the already immediate need for widespread high-speed internet in Arrowsic. After the pandemic reached Maine, everything from daily education to medical appointments moved online to reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

“We have our fair share of home-based industries in this town who require significantly greater internet capacity than what we have now,” said Hudson. “My son, for example, ran a videography business out of his grandmother’s house and when he had to show first cuts of video projects, he had to go either to Café Crème in Bath or to the Patten Free Library parking lot in order to have sufficient broadband to deliver projects to clients.”

“We’re frustrated on the Arrowsic Broadband Authority because we wanted this to happen more quickly,” said Kornrumpft. “It’s a complicated process, but we’re getting there. I think the community appreciates the effort and at the end of the day, we’ll end up with a service that benefits all subscribers.”


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