An initiative by Cumberland County and participating municipalities to improve access to broadband
Home to roughly 293,000 residents, Cumberland County is the most populous county in Maine - accounting for twenty percent of the state’s population within less than five percent of the land mass. Despite our relative density, many towns in Cumberland County meet the USDA Rural Development Classification of “rural” under 7-CFR 1738.
Several Cumberland County municipalities suffer from a lack of access to affordable, high-speed broadband. Even consumers living along major arteries in the County report that they cannot gain access to acceptable speeds for home and business use. These towns have come to accept that a private sector solution is unlikely, and so they are exploring municipal investment.
But an individual community venturing into the world of municipal broadband will run into countless roadblocks: from absorbing the cost of construction and maintenance to the complexity of make-ready negotiations to establishing service contracts, to the question of whether usage rates will support the investment long term. A combination of these barriers - risk, cost, and complexity - can stop a municipally-supported broadband project in its tracks.
Based on feedback from our community leaders, Cumberland County has made access to broadband a priority goal. With limited resources and no home rule, our capability to support this goal lies in planning, education, advocacy, and very strategic funding. Early in 2018, Cumberland County secured a planning grant of $25,000 through the Community Development Block Grant Program to help interested communities form a regional utility; and a construction grant for a portion of their multi-town project when they are ready to move forward.
In November 2018, Cumberland County selected the James W. Sewall Company in Old Town after an open RFP process that attracted qualified bids from all across the country to perform this research and playbook development process.