June 30, 2008

Agencies Look to Expand Broadband in Moosehead

CHARLESTON - Cornerstone Communications, a provider of high- speed broadband Internet services in eastern and central Maine, in partnership with the Piscataquis County Economic Development Council, is applying for a grant to provide rapid expansion of broadband Internet coverage to Greenville and the surrounding area.

The grant application will be reviewed by the ConnectME Authority, a Maine government agency recently created to promote broadband services in rural parts of the state. The ConnectME Authority administers a fund created by the Legislature for that purpose, financed by a small surcharge on Maine customers' phone bills.

The proposed towns and unorganized townships to be served are: Shirley, Greenville (Wilson Ponds and Sandy Bay), Beaver Cove, Lily Bay, Frenchtown (Kokadjo and First Roach Pond), Harford's Point, Big Moose Township (Squaw Mountain Resort area), Rockwood and Tomhegan (The Birches area).

In November 2007, during the first round of ConnectME funding, Cornerstone and the PCEDC obtained $430,777 - more than half of a statewide total of $787,184 - to expand broadband service to 25 towns and unorganized townships. This represented a total of 4,364 households, in southern Piscataquis and western Penobscot counties, a project that is to be completed by the end of 2008. More than $1.5 million in funding is expected to be available during this upcoming round.

Andrew Hinkley, Cornerstone's general manager, said this week that the company's Moosehead Region project, if funded, will bring high-speed Internet service to a dozen communities surrounding Moosehead Lake, many of which have never had affordable high-speed access to the Internet before.

"We had earlier deployed our rural broadband Internet service in the towns of Charleston and Sebec, both of which had no high-speed service before," Hinkley said. "And this summer's deployment of our services in 25 towns in the Maine Highlands area is proving to be very well received. A large number of our customers have DSL service at their homes or offices elsewhere, and they have said that they are looking forward to the consistency and reliability that DSL offers for their high-speed connection."

Public input and support are required for any ConnectME grant application to be successful. Residents who are in favor of their town or unorganized territory receiving broadband services can help by writing a brief letter of support and mailing it to PCEDC Executive Director Thomas Kittredge, PCEDC, 50 Mayo St., Dover- Foxcroft 04426, or e-mailing him at tkittredge@emdc.org, before July 14.

Cornerstone makes use of a combination of technologies. Under the plan, the majority of customers would be served with high-speed DSL service over telephone lines, from equipment Cornerstone will install alongside Verizon's pole-mounted remote terminal, cabinets used to bring telephone service to many rural areas in the region.

At the same time, Cornerstone will install high-capacity digital radio systems, which will bring wireless broadband Internet access to homes in some areas that cannot be served by DSL. The overlay of area coverage by the two technologies will greatly increase the number of homes that can be reached by some form of broadband Internet service.

For information, call Hinkley at 992-4411 or Kittredge at 564- 3638.

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