Houlton’s broadband company gets $ 5.5 million to expand into rural northern Maine

HOULTON, Maine – More homes in rural Aroostook County will soon have access to fast and reliable internet, thanks to federal money given to Houlton’s Pioneer Broadband Company to expand its services in northern Maine.

The $ 5.5 million prize comes from the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

The lack of high-speed internet in rural areas like Aroostook County was an issue brought to the fore with the onset of the pandemic, when many schools had to do distance learning and teachers and students alike. struggled to get reliable connections. The two senators from Maine – US Senator Angus King, I-Maine, and US Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine – have expressed support for providing better Internet access to rural areas.

“An affordable high-speed Internet connection is absolutely vital for success in the 21st century,” said King, who is co-chair of the US Senate Broadband Caucus. “With this significant investment from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, Pioneer Broadband will now be able to provide much needed connectivity to 1,600 rural households in Maine. “

Tim McAfee, CEO of Pioneer Broadband, said the process of delivering broadband to these homes will take about three years.

The affected homes are in the most rural area along the census tracts which include the towns of Ashland, Bridgewater, Monticello, New Limerick, Linneus and Amity.

The federal money means households included in this plan will have fast internet access at one gigabit per second for $ 59.95 per year, the same price as regular Pioneer broadband services.

“We can’t wait to get started,” McAfee said. “It has been a process of a year and a half of waiting for [the government] to achieve what they said they were going to do, and now we’re starting with the applications and the permits.

Already providing virtually all Internet services to homes in Houlton and many neighboring Hodgdon, Pioneer Broadband is looking to expand further in Aroostook County.

McAfee said the FCC’s $ 5.5 million will only be used to expand and not upgrade its existing infrastructure.

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