The town of Bremen and Tidewater Telecom Inc. have won a $120,000 grant from the ConnectMaine Authority that will enable the expansion of high-speed internet access to every household in Bremen.
Tidewater Telecom Inc., of Nobleboro, will invest $480,435 in the project, or 80% of the $600,435 project cost, according to a press release from the business. The town of Bremen made in-kind contributions valued at $18,455.
The buildout will enable 400 potential connections, according to a press release from the ConnectMaine Authority.
The Bremen-Tidewater partnership was one of three in Maine to win infrastructure grants in the recent round of funding. Argyle and Hudson, both in Penobscot County, won the others.
“The money was split between the three towns based on what each application asked for,” ConnectMaine Authority Executive Director Peggy Schaffer said. Argyle won $81,250 toward a $325,000 project, while Hudson won $300,000 toward a $762,820 project.
In addition to the $501,250 in infrastructure grants, ConnectMaine awarded $53,250 in planning grants to four more communities.
Bremen officials learned about the grant after an authority board meeting Wednesday, May 27.
“I think it was a strong application because of the number of community members who were involved in the process, who went out of their way to show the need in town for this,” Bremen Broadband Committee Chair Christa Thorpe said.
“The committee had tried not to get its hopes up,” she said. “There were a lot of towns involved and not a lot of money up for grabs.”
The project will build out about 25 miles of fiber-optic cable, according to the press release from Tidewater Telecom.
Tidewater will assemble a project team in July and begin accepting applications from the 400 unserved homes in Bremen later in the summer, with plans to begin construction in the fall, according to its press release.
The deadline to complete the project under grant guidelines is June 30, 2021, according to Thorpe.
The buildout will make Bremen the first mainland town in the Midcoast to become a 100% fiber-to-the-home community, according to the Tidewater press release. Tidewater and its sister companies have now received 17 ConnectMaine grants and has completed the previous 16 on time and on budget.
Thorpe said the broadband committee will continue to meet monthly.
“We are going to continue to work and to educate community members on what they can do once they have fiber-optic cable and how it can be used to get television services, telehealth, and digital education opportunities,” Thorpe said.
Tidewater Telecom Inc. President Shirley Manning said the business is “honored” to partner with Bremen “in this important infrastructure enhancement for the long-term economic viability of their town.”
But Manning said Tidewater’s vision for universal broadband extends beyond Bremen.
“Bringing this advanced fiber-optic broadband technology to every home and business (and) every town in our region is our ultimate goal,” Manning said in the Tidewater press release.
Bremen Selectman Boe Marsh said he and his fellow selectmen are “thrilled” by the grant.
“Its effect will be staggeringly positive for everyone in our community in so many ways,” he said in the Tidewater press release.
Alan Hinsey, director of marketing and sales for Tidewater, said fiber-optic connections can be “life-changing.”
The ConnectMaine Authority seeks to establish universal availability of high-speed internet in Maine. Surcharges on internet service and land lines fund the authority.
The authority may award another round of grants this year, but much depends on the outcome of a broadband bond on the ballot for the July 14 referendum.
“We hope to do another round of grant funding this year, but a lot of things need to happen first,” Schaffer said.