Downeast town of Roque Bluffs proposes community broadband project

Stephenie MacLagan
Posted 2019-03-27
Roque Bluffs to meet and vote on community broadband project

Informational meeting to be held April 15th at 6:30 p.m. at the Roque Bluffs Town Hall

For quality of life, businesses and career opportunities, and access to education and health services, the Town of Roque Bluffs is proposing a community-wide broadband project that would bring fiber internet service to every premise in the town.

Simply stated, “broadband” means a high-speed internet connection that provides the reliability and speeds required by 21st century economic and social opportunities. This includes the needs of businesses, telecommuters, students of all ages, those who want to age in-place or access telehealth, and for municipalities and emergency services.

Roque Bluffs is a beautiful part of Maine’s Bold Coast and home to fishermen and blueberry growers. With a high quality of life, the community seeks to retain its residents as they grow up, seek career opportunities and desire to age in their community. Its rurality is also its challenge. Currently, broadband is unavailable in Roque Bluffs, making it difficult to attract and retain residents and businesses. Because the town is very rural, the population is spread out, private companies cannot get a return on their investment of installing a modern broadband network.

This is not unique to this town. In fact, this economic and community development challenge is being experienced all along our coast and even statewide in Maine. Since 2015, the Island Institute has been working with island and coastal communities interested in pursuing broadband, to help sustain rural coastal and island communities. Our strategic goal is that Maine’s coastal and island communities will have access to national average internet speeds by 2025. To date, we have provided information and support to over 60 island and coastal communities, including technical resources and advice on best practices, help negotiating with internet service providers, financial resources including our broadband planning grants, and sharing solutions.

After receiving a lot of complaints about the lack of broadband, the Town Select Board knew it couldn’t ignore this challenge. They turned to their existing internet service providers to learn how their networks could be expanded or leveraged to improve service townwide. While their existing wireless service can no longer meet the needs of the community after a decade since it was installed, Axiom Technologies agreed to partner with the Town on a 21st century broadband solution.

Check out the Broadband Committee’s informational flyer here.

With a planning grant from the Island Institute, and matching funds from the Town, an infrastructure design was engineered. Through well-attended community meetings, the Town defined its goals of ensuring that the broadband network would provide equitable internet service throughout the community, and that the speeds and reliability of that service would outlive the cost of the building network.

The community meetings have been overwhelmingly positive. Another $20,000 was raised at the regular town meeting in September, so that the Select Board could moved forward with plans to buildout the network. With assistance from the Island Institute and Axiom Technologies, the Town is preparing an application to the USDA’s ReConnect Program that would cover up to 75% of the buildout cost, which will be about $1 million.

Check out the Broadband Committee’s Frequently Asked Questions here.

This and other grant opportunities require that the project be fully funded, that it has community support. The Select Board and its citizen Broadband Committee are seeking approval from the townspeople to fund this project and pursue grant funding support.

An informational meeting will be held on April 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Roque Bluffs Town Hall, and a special town meeting to vote on funding the project is being scheduled for May.

Any additional questions about the Roque Bluffs Broadband Project should be directed to Lisa Hanscom, Select Board Chair, at (207) 255-0333.


About the Island Institute’s broadband work

The Island Institute works to sustain Maine’s island and coastal communities, and exchanges ideas and experiences to further the sustainability of communities here and elsewhere. Our Broadband for Island and Coastal Sustainability project team partners with interested coastal and island community leaders to help them pursue broadband solutions that fit their community’s visions and goals.

To find out more about our broadband work and resources available to communities in Maine and beyond, check out our resource page.