Antenna removal will cease wireless service in Limestone

Posted April 05, 2011, at 10:41 p.m.

LIMESTONE, Maine – Despite efforts by the company to find an alternative solution, 23 Pioneer Wireless customers in and around Limestone will lose their wireless service on May 4 as a result of the removal of an antenna from the Loring Commerce Center.

The loss will affect not only individual customers, but also five commercial customers at the facility, according to Tim McAfee, chief technical officer for Houlton-based Pioneer Wireless. The company provides Internet service to a territory stretching from Fort Kent to Lubec and Howland.

Carl Flora is the president and CEO of the Loring Development Authority. He said on Monday that the LDA allowed Pioneer Wireless to put an antenna on top of a large central heating plant at the Loring Commerce Center to provide wireless service approximately 10 years ago.

The Loring Commerce Center is a 3,800-acre commercial, industrial and aviation park on the site of the former Loring Air Force Base. It is home to more than 20 employers.

“We provided them with no guarantee that it would always be there,” Flora said. “We have sold the property, and the company that purchased it plans to demolish it.”

McAfee said that only a small part of the LCC and some customers on the outer edges of Fort Fairfield are served by the antenna, and the company has worked diligently for several months to try to find a way to continue to supply wireless service to the 23 customers.

“We are not able to spend the money for a new tower because we wouldn’t get a return on our investment based on the number of customers that would be served,” he said Tuesday. “This is not a decision we took lightly. While the customers will be able to receive dial-up Internet service, they won’t be able to get high-speed or wireless. It leaves them in a lurch.”

The company has sent out letters to the affected customers, notifying them that wireless service will end on May 4.

“We have offered them three months of free dial-up service, but few customers have taken us up on it,” he said.

Most of the commercial customers in the commerce center are seeking out service from other providers.

McAfee said his company helped one commercial customer obtain Internet access through Time Warner Cable, but that the service was not available for residential customers.

McAfee said that the LCC antenna site on the smokestack was “not the best we’ve ever had.”

He said that it is the first time the company has ever had to take down a site.

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