Calais Council Aims to Deflect Misinformation on Municipal Fiber Project

By Lura Jackson

 

The state’s first joint municipal fiber-optic broadband utility is continuing to be constructed in Baileyville and Calais as residents and businesses alike eagerly anticipate the high internet speeds and relatively low costs it promises. As construction continues on the project, the Calais City Council is actively looking to dispel misinformation and counter competitors who are searching for their share of the market.

“There are a lot of competitors out there that are trying to jump in and discourage us with a flood of wireless stuff that’s not even the same,” said City Councilor Artie Mingo during a City Council meeting on Thursday, February 14th. “It’s not even remotely in the same ballpark of what we’re building. But people will get confused.”

The joint fiber utility will enable providers of internet service – such as Spectrum, Fairpoint, and Pioneer Wireless – to utilize the fiber infrastructure to serve their customers with faster speeds and lower costs. The cities aren’t providing internet service themselves but will leave it to customers to select packages once they become available.

From Mingo’s perspective, it’s important for residents of both municipalities to realize what they voted on and have paid for through its approximate $2.5 million cost – and to be able to properly take advantage of it when the time is right. “It’s theirs. It’s a community project. They own it. Taxpayers own this utility company.”

City Manager Mike Ellis acknowledged that there is ample confusion related to whether the service is available yet and where it will come from. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there coming down the pipe,” Ellis said during the meeting.

The two-year construction timetable for the utility – at the completion of which upwards of 95 percent of homes and businesses in both municipalities will have access – is now fully underway. Work began in Baileyville on Washington Street in January and Mingo said he anticipates it to start in Calais in March.

To help spread correct information to the businesses of the community, Laurel Perkins will be coordinating an upcoming event that will include a presentation on the fiber network and how businesses can take advantage of it.

In the meantime, official communication related to the joint municipal fiber network will come from the Downeast Broadband Utility, which currently has an active Facebook page and website. To follow along with the developments, visit www.facebook.com/downeastbroadband or downeastbroadband.com.