MACHIAS, Maine — Verizon Wireless customers in Washington County already may have noticed better cell service along Routes 1 and 9.
Over the past year and a half, Wireless Partners has been working with Verizon Wireless to install “32 new sites of coverage,” Bob Parsloe, Wireless Partners president and CEO, said at a news conference Thursday at Helen’s Restaurant.
As one of 20 companies working with Verizon Wireless to bring better service to rural areas through the Verizon Wireless’s LTE in Rural America Program, Wireless Partners has constructed 13 new towers in the region and installed its equipment on another 19 existing towers. The project was financed by a $3.4 million loan from Mechanics Savings Bank.
“We are here to unveil a new era,” said Parsloe. “We’re bringing the community basic connectivity infrastructure.”
Parsloe said Verizon customers should immediately notice better service and may continue to do so as the company continues to activate towers.
For example, he said, workers were putting the last 10 feet on a 190-foot tower in Whiting Thursday with plans to add the equipment to the tower in the next week.
Customers will immediately notice better data service. Better voice service will arrive within 45 days, he said.
Parsloe said the company will be partnering with another firm to deliver Internet service. In the next 45 days, it will make an announcement about who the partner will be and how it will work.
Parsloe said he had been inspired by economics professor David Vail of Bowdoin College, whose March 24 OpEd in the Bangor Daily News said boosting tourism in Washington County would require “universal access to broadband Internet and reliable cellphone service.”
Vail, who attended the news conference by video using the new network, called the announcement a “breakthrough moment.”
He said sophisticated tourists who expect to be connected at all times will be more likely to visit Washington County.
“These people expect to be connected to everybody from their stockbroker to their family,” said Vail. “Weak cellphone service and very slow, if any, Internet connection are a major obstacle.”
Chris Gardner also spoke at the conference both in his capacity as executive director of the Eastport Port Authority and chairman of the Washington County board of commissioners.
“We’ve always questioned our connectivity to the rest of the world,” quipped Gardner. “This project means so much to us.”