Rockport requests $750,000 from Knox County Commissioners for Broadband Pathway Project

Tue, 08/31/2021 - 12:30pm

    ROCKPORT — The Rockport Select Board approved Aug. 30 an ARPA application requesting $750,000 from the Knox County Commissioners for the Rockport Broadband Pathway Project.

    The money would represent a 25-percent “seed money” contribution towards the $3 million build cost of Phase 1 of the project which aims to provide citizens of Knox county with high speed, fiber optic internet. 

    “$750,000 plus available matching funds would make the project “shovel ready” to immediately purchase materials for the network build. Given the high demand, there is a one year wait for delivery of fiber optic network materials making it essential to purchase them as soon as possible,” reads the application.

    “We’re really grateful to have the support of our neighboring communities that recognize the needs of Rockport and Rockport’s residents, but also the businesses in Rockport and around Rockport. Because obviously the value here is for us to be a ‘tent pole’ to really allow for expansion beyond our borders, but this first build-out would essentially 100-percent support Rockport. This application is the first phase and I expect us to be having a lot more conversations over the course of the project, but this is the first step,” said Duke.

    He said that over 20 letters have been received by the Town from businesses and neighboring communities in support of the project.

    The application reads, in part (click here for the entire application)

    The Town of Rockport will initiate Phase 1 of a Knox County-wide broadband rollout to homes and businesses. The Project is designed and built in partnership with the non-profit Midcoast Internet Development Corporation “MIDC”), a regional municipal utility, and has the support of regional partners in the utility district, and the endorsement of neighboring Knox County municipalities.

    The Pathway Project Phase 1 is the targeted pathway forward to fund, construct, and operate the first section of an open access, fiber optic broadband network that can be expanded and replicated in other communities across Knox County. This network will be owned by the community utility, it will be designed and built by a third party that specializes in fiber optic network design and construction, it will be operated by a third party that specializes in operation and maintenance of fiber optic networks, and internet service will be provided by experienced internet service providers. By retaining ownership of the broadband infrastructure, the community utility can ensure universal access, high speed service, affordability, and retention of the profits in the community.

    This multi-generational investment in fiber optic technology supports the broadest range of our Knox County communities, bringing essential communication and telehealth services; access to education for all ages; providing the necessary connectivity platform for economic development; fostering small business growth and opportunity; as well as acting as a catalyst for job creation and skilled-labor retention. In the company of water and electricity, affordable broadband service is regarded as an essential service for the health and well-being of our communities.

    The Knox County investment in the Pathway Project demonstrates an understanding and support for Guiding Principles that ensure each community that joins the regional utility works toward shared goals: has local control of the system; strives that all homes and businesses, regardless of their location be served; and will see profits reinvested through continued expansion and improved service to communities within Knox County.

    How the funds will be expended

    The $750,000 from Knox County will be used in two primary ways: To leverage other financing and funding opportunities and to provide the funds to immediately purchase building materials to guarantee a timely build schedule for Phase 1 of the Pathway Project.

    The creation of a capital stack including Knox County ARPA funds that represent 25% seed money is required for Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) funding, for Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) backing, and for secured municipal lines of commitment to finance the complete build cost of $3 million.

    In concert with the use for seed funding, the expenditure of the Knox County funds would go towards the purchase of $945,000 of fiber optic materials (See attached detailed build cost.) to build Phase 1 of the regional fiber optic network.

    The next meeting of the Rockport Select Board will be held Monday, Sept. 13 at 6:00 p.m. at the Rockport Opera House.