A breakout group strategizing at the 2016 Broadband Summit

Why Broadband?

After numerous conversations with many island communities along Maine's coast, we heard that residents and businesses lack reliable and fast internet service. From these discussions, subsequent research, multiple conferences, and closely working with island and coastal residents, we have identified that improved access to high-speed internet is an essential tool for attracting and maintaining year-round populations and encouraging economic growth in line with the culture of coastal communities.  Check out our factsheet: Why Broadband?

A Broadband Solution for Rural Communities: The Cranberry Isles

While a convenience to most of us, broadband (reliable high-speed internet access) is a necessity for businesses, community services, and teleworkers. Due to geographic isolation and low and sparse populations, Maine's rural communities will never present a good business case for private internet service providers.

The Island Institute partners with interested coastal and island community leaders to help them pursue broadband solutions that fit their communities visions and goals. The town of the Cranberry Isles in Downeast Maine is an example of one such community. After investing in new broadband infrastructure, the community made a transition to achieve faster and more reliable internet in late 2017 and early 2018. View the video below to learn more.

Broadband Feasibility Study

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to identify ways to improve internet infrastructure, especially without fully knowing the extent of the existing infrastructure. As a result, several towns throughout the country have commissioned feasibility studies to determine their existing broadband capacity and to clearly identify opportunities for improvement. These feasibility studies are costly in themselves. Thus, many communities are not able to garner the financial support necessary for completing this initial important step in the process.

To remove the barrier of these initial costs, the Island Institute partnered with Tilson Technology to complete a 13-island broadband feasibility study The study, released in December 2015, produced a unique report for each of the studied islands, and the results are based around a series of Tilson-led community discussions about their goals for connectivity. The study details each community’s vision around broadband as well as specify the capacity of current infrastructure. It also proposes several infrastructure improvement options available for each community, in the event that they decide to pursue broadband expansion projects.

Broadband for Island and Coastal Sustainability Summit

Recognized for being a needed catalyst in community-driven broadband projects, the annual Broadband for Island and Coastal Sustainability Summit provides the opportunity for rural community leaders to share strategies for improving internet connectivity.

2018 Broadband Summit

Celebrating the accomplishments since 2015, this third Summit brought together community leaders to share lessons learned and inform strategies for the year ahead. The day covered:

The Importance of Broadband:

Community Engagement:

Assessing Infrastructure Options:

Funding Broadband Projects:

Adoption & Use:

2016 Broadband Summit

The 2016 Broadband Summit, which focused on the lessons learned after a year of investigating options for improved internet service and connectivity. Island communities were joined by others from Maine's coast and beyond, to share strategies for pursuing broadband in the year ahead. Materials included:

2015 Broadband Summit

The 2015 Broadband Summit brought together representatives from the islands that were included in Tilson's broadband feasibility study, with experts in the internet field, and provided space and time for community learning and collaboration. Materials included:

Sharing Broadband Solutions

After working with over 30 rural communities, we discovered a pattern of how communities approach the challenge of obtaining broadband. This graphic depicts the process of community-driven broadband.

Additional Resources

To share stories around the challenge of planning for better internet, and provide additional resources to help communities here and beyond, we continue to develop our What Works Solutions Library. Solutions there include ideas for educating the broader community, strategies for working with service providers, and opportunities for funding broadband projects.

Of particular note, the Town of Cranberry Isles issued an RFI to solicit creative options for an infrastructure network and used a matrix to review the RFI responses. Responses to the RFI issued by Town of Long Island provided valuable information on the obstacles to seeking a financial models that would allow for the town to recoup the upfront costs contributed to the project.


For more information on Broadband for Island and Coastal Sustainability, please contact Stephenie MacLagan or Kendra Jo Grindle.