Great Works Internet Partners (GWI), Arctaris Impact Investors, LLC, and the Maine Financial Authority said Jan. 31 that they plan to build new fiber-optic broadband networks for five Maine communities, including Belfast, South Portland, Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway. The projects are made possible through a partnership with FAME, which provides a loan and a commercial guarantee to the project.
GWI is the fiber optic internet service provider in Maine and the first internet service provider in the state to be certified as a B Corp. to meet higher standards of transparency, accountability and performance.
Arctaris, a Boston-based impact investment firm that provides growth capital to businesses and infrastructure in underserved regions, will fund the projects using equity from Opportunity Zone. Arctaris is rolling out a similar program in Colorado and plans to replicate this model in other locations across the country.
In total, GWI and Arctaris will build more than 240 miles of fiber optic routes and the networks will pass through more than 12,000 residential and commercial premises.
The networks will cover significant parts of Belfast and South Portland, including areas of opportunity, which also encompass the economically deprived areas forming the first phase of subsequent projects. The network will cover all premises in Millinocket, East Millinocket and Medway.
GWI has already begun design work and is progressing with building the network from the next two months with the aim of starting to attract customers in early 2023; detailed coverage maps will be posted on the GWI website in the coming weeks.
“As a member of Belfast City Council and the Broadband Committee, it has been very clear for several years, even before the Covid pandemic, that broadband infrastructure is more important today than the provision of electricity to all communities was in the last century,” the Belfast alderman said. Mary Mortier, in a press release. “We have been working on finding the right long-term solution for Belfast, to provide universal broadband internet connectivity to our residents and businesses. We believe fiber to site service is the way to successfully achieve our goal of empowering all members of our community to fully participate in the world we live in today and tomorrow, whether whether related to education, health care, job opportunities or recreation. We believe that our choice of GWI to provide this two-sentence key infrastructure build, along with their dedication to achieving B Corporation status, shows an exceptional commitment to their current and future clients in Belfast.
In December 2020, FAME approved an application from Arctaris for 20% leveraged loan insurance on $9.5 million in funding to build the dark fiber networks in South Portland and Belfast.
Arctaris Broadband Company, LLC, a wholly owned and operated holding company of Arctaris Opportunity Zone Funds, will act as the distribution agent and owner lessor of the network. GWI will serve as the tenant and build and operate the fiber network in both cities.
A direct FAME loan of $1 million was also approved and will be used for post-construction capital expenditures and working capital.
Founded in 1994 and based in Biddeford, GWI (www.gwi.net) is a Maine-owned and operated Internet Service Provider (ISP) that serves residential and business customers and is an advocate for the expansion of high-speed Internet access in the state. The first broadband operator in the nation to be B Corporation certified, GWI is an industry leader in the design, construction, financing and operation of high-speed fiber optic networks.
About Arctaris Impact Investors
Arctaris Impact Investors, LLC is a Boston-based impact investment firm with over 13 years’ experience and six funds, with debt and equity investments in the Opportunity Zone. The company manages funds that invest in growth-oriented operating businesses and community infrastructure projects located in underserved communities. Founded in 2009, Arctaris has partnered with the Kresge Foundation, Harvard Business School’s Professor Michael Porter’s Competitive Downtown Initiative, and several other foundations, federal and state government agencies to invest in urban areas. of opportunity, targeted downtowns and rural communities across the United States, with the goal of delivering above-market investment returns while having a positive social impact. For more information, visit www.arctaris.com.
The Maine Finance Authority (FAME) is a quasi-independent state agency that provides innovative financial solutions to help Maine citizens pursue business and educational opportunities. FAME helps lead the creation of well-paying jobs for Maine citizens by working on the nexus between economic development and workforce development. To learn more about FAME, visit famemaine.com