The Island Institute works with communities, local nonprofits, and town officials to help facilitate thoughtful planning around a sustainable economic future. Through conversations with numerous island and coastal Maine communities, we consistently heard that residents and businesses alike lack reliable, fast internet service—creating barriers to education, business prosperity, community growth, and expanded social interaction.

From these discussions, research, and our close work with island and coastal residents, we have identified that improved access to reliable internet, at minimum broadband level speeds, is an essential tool for attracting and maintaining year-round populations and encouraging diverse economic growth in line with the culture of coastal communities.

“Reliable, affordable internet access isn’t being viewed as a luxury or a personal choice anymore. It’s a necessity for our communities’ growth and sustainability.” – Kendra Jo Grindle, Senior Community Development Officer, Island Institute

Collaborating with Communities

The Island Institute’s Broadband Team supports community leaders through the development of working groups, financial and economic trainings, conferences, and the facilitation of discussions between community members, local officials, and internet service providers. Our team works with communities to secure state and federal funding, while also providing our own planning grants, to help limit the barriers many communities may face during the community-driven broadband process.

The process for obtaining broadband varies from community to community—from different financial structures to various ownership models. Our team has tailored an approach for working with each community as they define their priorities and implement their own unique path for bringing broadband to their community.

The Community-Driven Broadband Process

After years of working with Maine’s rural communities, we discovered a pattern of how communities approach the challenge of obtaining broadband. We developed the Community-driven Broadband Process Model to help guide community leaders through the steps for bringing broadband to their towns and residents. This process guide meets communities where they are in determining the best solution for bringing universal access to residents and relies on community engagement for ultimate success and return on investment.

The Community-Driven Broadband Graphic and Guide

The graphic below depicts the process of community-driven broadband, and our Community-Driven Broadband Guide share stories and examples and provides a step-by-step guide to help walk you through each part of the process. We hope you find these tools useful as you work to bring broadband to your community.

Community-Driven Broadband Guide and Addendum

Community-Driven Broadband Process

Bring Broadband to Your Community

Knowing is half the battle. Large telecom companies have not made significant investments in the infrastructure of rural areas with small populations, and as a result, many rural areas have taken control of their own futures and have begun funding community-driven solutions.

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 Solutions Library. Solutions there include ideas for educating the broader community, strategies for working with service providers, and opportunities for funding broadband projects. Learn more under Expanding Broadband Access in our Solutions Library.

For additional tools, check out our Community-Driven Broadband Guide and our Broadband Resource List.

Broadband Planning Grants

Through the Tom Glenn Community Impact Fund, the Island Institute provides broadband planning grants to support community-driven broadband projects in Maine’s coastal and island communities. High-speed, reliable internet service is essential, to ensure equitable access to education and healthcare, to support civic engagement and aging in place, and to spur economic diversification and prosperity.

Who is eligible?

We encourage applications from local or regional broadband working groups of Maine coastal and island communities that are in regular communication with Broadband staff of the Island Institute. Recipients of planning grant funds must be a Maine municipality, local institution, or nonprofit. Click here to learn more and apply, or contact us here.


For more information on how to bring broadband to your community, please contact Christa Thorpe with our Broadband team.

Maine Broadband Coalition
Advisory Committee Member

The Island Institute is a proud member of the Maine Broadband Coalition Advisory Committee.

Representing hundreds of organizations, dozens of communities, and thousands of internet users in Maine, the Maine Broadband Coalition (MBC) is the hub of information, policy support, and capacity building around high-speed internet in Maine.

About the Maine Broadband Coalition

Run a speed test and
help improve
broadband in Maine

Take the Maine Broadband Coalition’s speed test to help advance broadband infrastructure improvement in Maine.

Getting your friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors to take the test will help create better maps and show state officials where service is and isn’t. Run your test, then compare results throughout the rest of the state.

Learn more and run your speed test here