MOUNT DESERT — ConnectME, the state agency set up to help achieve “universal availability of broadband” internet service in Maine, has awarded a $100,000 grant to Mount Desert for expansion of service to the Pretty Marsh area and $69,066 to the Cranberry Isles for a transmission tower on Islesford.
Mount Desert said in its grant application that the proposed broadband expansion “consists of 25.72 miles of extension passing 325 potential subscribers at an estimated not-to-exceed cost of $774,876.”
“The actual cost will be determined once funding is approved and construction and make-ready costs are [known].”
Voters at the May 2 town meeting were told that the cost could be as high as $700,000. They voted to authorize the town to issue bonds of up to $350,000 with the understanding that Charter Spectrum, formerly Time Warner Cable, would pay the rest.
“Chances of a provider establishing services to [the Pretty Marsh area] without financial assistance are unlikely because this geographic area does not meet Charter’s minimum density standards, and the cost is prohibitive for the local residents and businesses to fund,” the town said in its grant application.
The town of Cranberry Isles said in its application that the town, and particularly Islesford, is “under enormous pressure to have internet service restored.”
“The only provider of internet to Islesford [Redzone Wireless] is withdrawing its service to Islesford in October of this year. This project will restore service and fully address the reliability and poor service levels that have been experienced by islanders for many years.”
Voters at the March 11 town meeting authorized the town to spend up to $1.2 million for a fiber network to provide broadband service to the town’s three inhabited islands: Great Cranberry, Islesford and Sutton. Axiom Technologies, which the town has selected to build and operate the network, has pledged to contribute up to $205,000 in cash and labor.
The cost of the broadband infrastructure on Islesford, including construction of a 100-foot tower, is expected to be around $752,000.
“The tower on Islesford will receive the signal from a 30-foot tower on Great Cranberry and then distribute internet service … through a fiber-to-the-home connection that runs to each of the 140 homes on Islesford,” the grant application said.
“If successful with this grant, construction activity will commence immediately and all logistics of moving tower construction [materials] to the island via barge will be coordinated.”
ConnectME awarded grants totaling $479,812 to eight Maine towns in May. Mount Desert’s $100,000 was the largest.