Broadband committee representatives and officials from Blue Hill, Brooksville, Deer Isle and Penobscot have united for the common purpose of improving broadband (high-speed internet) access in their communities. The group has released a request for proposals for the construction of a Fiber to the Premises network, a significant milestone in the effort to make fast, affordable and reliable internet available to every household and business in the affiliated towns.
“While the effort to bring true broadband internet access to the entire Peninsula has been underway for more than three years, the recent pandemic has driven home the need for reliable, accessible internet for our students, medical professionals and their patients, the business community, those who work from home and many others,” said Scott Miller, selectman of Blue Hill. “The poor or non-existent access, coupled with increased state and federal focus on supporting rural broadband efforts, makes it clear that the time to act is now.”
The town representatives selected Bangor-based consulting firm Mission Broadband to advise on the RFP and assist with evaluating proposals received. Recently, there has been encouragement of public/private broadband partnerships through funding opportunities at both at the state and national level. Once a qualified vendor selection is made following the RFP process, the resulting partnership will apply for available grants to lower the towns’ collective costs.
“We are happy to have this very experienced, national firm lending a hand as we embark on this important step,” said Abbie McMillen, co-chair of the Brooksville Broadband Committee. “We have determined that Mission is one of only two consulting firms in the state that works solely on behalf of communities, so there is no conflict of interest with any of the potential proposers.”
Surveys have shown that internet speeds are nearly universally substandard within the four towns, and frustration has been expressed by residents about the speed and quality of service.
The towns anticipate that the responses to the RFP will clarify the range of potential opportunities to improve the situation, as well as the associated costs.
“It is important to recognize that no agreements that involve any significant town expenditures will be finalized until there is appropriate town approval,” said James Fisher, town manager of Deer Isle. “We hope that our RFP will lead our towns to adopt the most cost effective, reliable solution for improving this critical and now essential infrastructure.”
“The future of Maine towns like Penobscot depends on fiber everywhere to draw the families, entrepreneurs, and others to the beautiful coast,” said Joel Katz, chairman of the Penobscot Broadband Committee. “Fast, affordable and ‘future proof’ is not too much to ask.”
The RFP is available at https://www.peninsulautility4broadband.org/rfp.html.