A Biddeford internet provider plans to expand broadband networks in five Maine communities, including parts of South Portland.
Great Works Internet Partners, or GWI, on Monday announced plans to install 240 miles of fiber optic cable in Millinocket, East Millinocket, Medway, Belfast and South Portland starting within months.
The broadband expansion will reach 12,000 homes and businesses, the company said in a press release. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2023.
“In terms of the needs of residents, there is a growing demand for bandwidth on a daily basis, and our goal is to provide universal and ubiquitous service for all,” GWI President Karem Durdag said in a statement. . “Fiber infrastructure plays a vital role in meeting these long-term challenges.”
Construction financing of $9.5 million in South Portland and Belfast was provided by Arctaris Impact Investors, a Boston firm that also financed the reopening and operation of the Saddleback Mountain ski resort near Rangeley in 2019.
The Maine Finance Authority, a public finance agency also known as FAME, provided 20% loan insurance on the Arctaris investment. FAME also provided a $1 million direct loan for post-construction costs in Belfast and South Portland.
Parts of the new fiber optic network will be installed in “opportunity zones” – areas of the state designated to provide investors with special tax benefits. Thirty-two areas were created in Maine through the 2017 Republican tax cut. Capital gains — profits from the sale of investments — invested in these areas receive generous tax breaks.
Millinocket, East Millinocket and the Maine Mall area of South Portland are opportunity areas.
The new fiber optic networks are coming as Maine and other states move forward with plans to invest at least $250 million in federal funding for high-speed internet service.
According to state estimates, as many as 83,000 homes in the state lack broadband access. Since the pandemic, connecting to reliable and fast Internet service has become more crucial for education, health, social relationships and commerce.
“Today, more than ever, equitable access to affordable high-speed internet is crucial to the economic viability of cities and states across our country,” Arctaris Director Neil Katz said in a statement. “By building fibre-based broadband networks, we are developing the infrastructure needed to bridge the digital divide in underserved communities.”
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