Five towns in the Lakes Region  are working together to ensure that all residents and businesses have access to high-speed internet.

The communities – Casco, Naples, Raymond, Sebago and Standish – last week asked internet providers to submit proposals for potential solutions. Chosen providers would gain the opportunity to expand their footprint in southern Maine and apply for state funding.

The request for proposals follows a two-year effort by volunteers and local officials in the five towns, each which has areas where residents and businesses lack high-speed service.

“The region’s fragmented broadband infrastructure is an obstacle to economic development and participation in 21st Century society,” said Clara McCool, Regional Broadband Coordinator at the Greater Portland Council of Governments, which worked to bring the communities together. “We need to provide equitable access to the modern world.”

The Maine Connectivity Authority has up to $70 million available to build out Maine’s broadband infrastructure. The authority plans to allocate $20 million this fall and the remaining funds in 2023.

The Lakes Region towns are keeping their options open. All five communities could partner with just one company to provide service to the region, or individual municipalities could make their own arrangements with providers. Options on the table could include a public-private partnership in which communities own a portion of the new infrastructure. Another option is for current service providers to expand their networks to reach unserved households.

Proposals are due by Sept. 23.