Maine broadband law expands IT access

By Ramona du Houx - April 7th, 2010 · 

Maine Fiber Company’s (MFC) Three Ring Binder rural broadband project took a giant step forward with the signing by Governor John Baldacci of LD 1778 on April 5, 2010. The new law clears the way for the 1,100 mile high-capacity, open access fiber network to move ahead.

LD 1778 has two main provisions. First, it establishes a new category of utility called a “dark fiber provider” and secondly, it creates a Broadband Sustainability Fund to support “last mile” high-speed Internet expansion to unserved areas.

Hospitals, libraries, the university system and government agencies will be able to access this broadband. The measure will save lives in the medical field as information will be exchanged at a faster pace and new networking opportunities will be opened up.

“As a Maine-based company, we are thankful for the broad, bipartisan and nonpartisan support we received from the Maine Legislature, the Governor’s Office and the broad coalition of other public and private sector people who helped us reach this point,” said Maine Fiber Company CEO Dwight Allison. “We plan to move forward honoring the letter and spirit of the hard work that went into LD1778 by this group and focus on building a network that will provide critical infrastructure for economic growth in Maine for years to come.”

Maine Fiber Company, an unaffiliated Maine-owned and operated private company that will oversee the construction, maintenance and leasing of the new fiber network, was created after the U.S. Department of Commerce awarded $25.4 million to the Three Ring Binder Project in December 2009.

“We believe the central reason Maine Fiber Company’s Three Ring Binder Project won federal funding in the first round of broadband expansion grants was because of the open-access, non-discriminatory model created in the application,” said MFC partner and investor Robert CS Monks. “This legislation turns that model into law. We believe increased competition and open access to high-speed fiber will benefit Maine businesses and consumers alike – and create economic opportunity for parts of our state that need it most.”

“Reaching this point took a lot of time and effort by a broad coalition of people with different viewpoints,” said MFC President Joshua Broder. “We didn’t all start in the same place, but with the Governor’s leadership and a lot of hard work by all the parties, we reached an agreement that should allow the Three Ring Binder to move forward without delay. We plan to move forward and meet the letter and spirit of this agreement – and the strict federal requirements and timelines associated with bringing this important investment to Maine.”