Islands face internet outage

CRANBERRY ISLES — Redzone Wireless customers on the Cranberry Isles will be without internet service as of Oct. 20 because it is being forced to remove its equipment from the structure in which it is housed, Redzone President Jim McKenna said in a Sept. 27 email to customers.

Nine years ago, Islesford resident Jim Parrish agreed to have Redzone equipment installed in the top room of the six-story tower on the northeast corner of his house so that he and others on the islands could have internet service. McKenna has said Parrish’s tower is the only structure on the island that can reliably provide wireless connectivity to the mainland.

After switching to a satellite-based internet provider this summer, Parrish said he wanted to be paid $300 a month to allow the Redzone equipment to remain in his house. Both Redzone and the Cranberry Isles Board of Selectmen refused to pay him.

Then, on Aug. 15, Parrish said he would unplug the Redzone equipment unless he received $1,000 by Aug. 22. McKenna agreed that Redzone would contribute $500, and Redzone customers chipped in the other $500 by the deadline. However, Richard Beal, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Wednesday that Parrish had refused to accept the payment.

Parrish had said earlier that, if he was paid the $1,000, he would leave the Redzone equipment in place until town meeting next March, when he wanted voters to be asked to approve a $300 monthly payment going forward.

Parrish could not be reached for comment Wednesday on why he changed his mind and has asked Redzone to remove its equipment from his house by Oct. 20.

“Removing this equipment will cause an internet outage for affected customers, and the outage will likely be permanent, unless an alternative structure is provided on the island for placement and operation of our equipment,” McKenna said in his email to Redzone customers this week.

He has declined to say how many customers Redzone has on the Cranberry Isles.

He said in his email that Redzone has been working with the town’s Broadband Working Group to find a way to maintain internet service. He said the company proposed several options, including a “means to continue operating the legacy system” and upgrading to 4G LTE technology.

“Unfortunately, as of the date of this letter, we have not received a commitment from the town to either extend the current service or to upgrade to faster, more reliable 4G LTE,” McKenna wrote. “It is with regret, then, that I must inform you that your internet service will be discontinued on Oct. 20, the date that we have been asked to remove our equipment.”

Neither Tom Powell, chairman of the town’s Broadband Working Group, nor Selectman Malcolm Fernald, who also has been involved in trying to find an internet solution, could be reached for comment Wednesday.

Jim Fortune, the selectmen’s administrative assistant, said the broadband group discussed at their meeting earlier this month the possibility of putting up a temporary tower to host the Redzone equipment until a permanent solution could be found.

He said Fernald arranged for someone from Redzone to come out and evaluate possible tower locations. “They found two or three places that would work,” Fortune said.

He said Fernald told him that Redzone has offered to pay half of the estimated $90,000 cost of a temporary tower if the town would pay the rest.

Beal, the Board of Selectmen chairman, said Wednesday that it is not the town’s responsibility to provide internet service for residents.



Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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