Telecommunications: Helping a Dark Fiber Provider Bring High-Speed Broadband to Rural Maine

Many of Maine’s rural areas do not have adequate access to high-speed broadband services. In 2008-09, a group of Internet providers and CLECs joined with state officials to map out a plan to install 1110 miles of high capacity dark fiber in three rings across rural Maine – known as “Three Ring Binder.” The project required a substantial grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and a private match. Verrill Dana joined the team in 2009 and advised the lead applicant regarding government and public outreach as well as communications with other businesses and telecommunications providers in Maine.

In late 2009, US Commerce Secretary Gary Locke flew to Maine to announce a $25 million ARRA grant from the National Telecommunications Information Agency, the first such award in the country. A major success for Maine.

In 2010, we helped pass necessary legislation to create a new telecommunications entity in Maine, a “Dark Fiber Provider,” which was necessary to allow the new venture to attach their fiber to utility poles in the public right of way. The legislation was bitterly opposed by competitors and their unions, but was ultimately passed after months of negotiations with stakeholders, the Governor’s office, the US Department of Commerce, and a range of state agencies. Once passed, we assisted the new Dark Fiber Provider obtain a certificate to do business from the Maine PUC and work with pole owners in Maine to obtain reasonable access to their facilities.

In 2011, a US Chamber of Commerce study listed Maine as the top infrastructure state in the nation, in large part because of the establishment of the Three Ring Binder. And businesses in rural parts of Maine are increasingly seeing the benefits of middle-mile fiber.

Verrill Dana’s Telecommunications Group, and its Government and Public Relations team, are proud to have had a part in helping rural Mainers get high-speed access to the Internet, and to help Maine grow.