October 16, 2019
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State backs loan to help expand cell service Down East

Courtesy of Federal Communications Commission
Courtesy of Federal Communications Commission
The Portland-based company Wireless Partners has received a loan from the Finance Authority of Maine to help expand 4G LTE service in Washington and eastern Hancock counties, where such coverage is scarce. The map above from the FCC shows the current 4G LTE coverage in Maine.

PORTLAND, Maine — The state’s business financing authority has agreed to insure a $3.4 million loan for Wireless Partners, which plans to expand the reach of its data networks for smartphone service, centered around Route 1 from Ellsworth to Calais and Airline Road from Calais to Aurora.

The company has a contract with Verizon Wireless through the cellphone giant’s LTE for Rural America program to build out networks in Washington and eastern Hancock counties.

“This project will make it possible for people Down East to have high-quality cell service as they would in any major market throughout the U.S.,” said Bob Parsloe, president and CEO of Wireless Partners.

That type of fast wireless data coverage is spotty throughout eastern Maine, with some gaps in coverage along the coast, according to FCC data from July 2014.

The Finance Authority of Maine agreed to insure the company’s $3.4 million loan from Mechanics Savings Bank, meaning that state tax dollars would repay up to 95 percent of the loan if Wireless Partners defaults.

Wireless Partners, based in Portland, said in a statement it plans to contribute about $1 million to the project for which it also received state economic development incentives through the Pine Tree Development Zone program. That qualification allows a company to get back 80 percent of the payroll taxes that would be paid on income for employees and qualify for other tax reductions.

In approving the loan insurance, FAME said it expects the investment will create or retain six jobs. The company plans to build out 32 new sites, 13 of which would be on new cell towers.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the portion of the loan the state may reimburse. It 95 percent, and not 90 percent, because Wireless Partners is a veteran-owned business.

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