Metal poles on which fiber optic cables will be strung for the new internet service on Islesford are stacked beside the town office on Wednesday. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

Poles for cables draw complaints Clock ticking on internet project

CRANBERRY ISLES — The location of the tower that is to bring broadband internet service to Islesford by the end of the month has changed, and the number of utility poles needed to carry fiber optic cables from the tower to homes has increased.

The latter has drawn complaints from a number of residents.

Axiom Technologies is building the new internet system under a contract with the town.

A new memorandum of understanding (MOU) was signed by the Board of Selectmen and Axiom President Mark Ouelette in late September, describing changes to the original plans.

“While the scope of the number of poles has changed as engineering considerations have been addressed, it has always been known that some poles were going to be needed to complete the project,” the document says. “[Some residents] “have been upset, having heard early in the process that [Axiom] would attempt to bury or lay on the ground as much of the fiber as possible. While this remains true, some island residents are opposed to poles and would like us to bury the fiber optic cable in front of their property.”

Jim Fortune, administrative assistant to the Board of Selectmen, said burying the cables proved to be very costly.

Axiom has agreed to work with individual homeowners to explore solutions such as adjusting pole placement “if those changes do not result in additional cost … or significant delays in project construction.”

But to keep the project on track and on budget, the selectmen have, according to Ouelette, “clearly articulated that Axiom should continue moving the project forward with the current plan to place poles along the utility rights of way … .”

However, some of those poles might be up for only a few months, according to Fortune. He said the town plans to ask telephone company FairPoint Communications and power company Emera Maine for permission to string fiber optic cables on some of their poles.

“There are a lot of places around the island where the poles are going to be rather inconspicuous,” he said. “But there are some key areas where we really don’t want poles. So, we would like to have those removed sometime next spring.”

Axiom has agreed to “collect, research, acknowledge and note” homeowners’ concerns so that the town might address them next spring.

New tower site

The 100-foot internet service tower was to have been built on private property in a heavily wooded area on the east side of Islesford. But that would have required building a road and extending electrical service to the site.

“We could have put it there, but the site was really difficult and kind of expensive; it just wasn’t working,” Fortune said.

He said Axiom and town officials determined that the tower could be built on town-owned land behind the town office. Not only will it be much cheaper to put it there, Fortune said, the new location “has better line of sight to both Great Cranberry and Sutton Island.”

Axiom is to extend internet service to those islands next year. The budget for the three-island project is $1.2 million.

Fortune said the only real downside to putting the tower at the town office is that it will be visible to more people.

“That’s the trade-off we had to make,” he said.

Racing against the clock

This Halloween will truly be trick-or-treat time for Islesford residents. Axiom is racing to have its broadband service up and running by Oct. 31, when the current internet provider, RedZone Wireless, is set to discontinue service to the island.

The tower is to be delivered to Islesford in the next couple of weeks in five 20-foot sections. Ouelette said it probably will take only a day to put the tower up.



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]
Dick Broom

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