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?
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.
Broadband Feasibility Study
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.
We hold an annual Broadband Summit for community leaders to learn about high-speed internet from industry experts, and to strategize with one another on how to bring broadband to their community.
2016 Broadband Summit
We recorded 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.
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:
- Broadband Resource List
- Broadband Funding Opportunities List
- Tilson’s Presentation Slides
- What Works Panel Presentations by Page Clason, Islesboro; Matt Hoffner, Great Diamond; Rick Bates, Rockport; and Deirdre Flynn, New York City
- Funding Opportunities Panel Presentations by Don Williams, National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and Rick Gordon, US Department of Agriculture
- Public-Private Partnerships Guide
- Community Hotspots Flyer from Axiom Technologies
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.
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.