East Millinocket, Millinocket and Medway and parts of South Portland and Belfast are in line for new fiber broadband networks thanks to a public-private partnership between the Finance Authority of Maine, a Biddeford internet service provider and a Boston investment firm.
FAME said Tuesday that it would fund a project with Great Works Internet Partners and Arctaris Impact Investors to build 240 miles of fiber optic cable routes that would provide high-speed internet access to 12,000 businesses and homes in those five areas.
GWI said it has already begun some design work and that customers could begin receiving service early next year.
Arctaris, a Boston-based investment firm, provided $9.5 million in funding for the South Portland and Belfast projects, while FAME provided a 20 percent insurance loan and a $1 million direct loan for “post-construction capital expenditures and working capital.”
Arctaris was also the investment firm behind reopening the Saddleback Mountain ski area in Rangeley after it was closed for several seasons. It often seeks out investment opportunities in communities that have lost major employers.
The fiber optic network would cover opportunity zones in South Portland and Belfast, as well as the entirety of Medway, East Millinocket and Millinocket — a region that lost both of its major employers over the 15 or so years when both local paper mills shut down. Congress created opportunity zones in the 2017 tax cuts law to encourage investment in low-income and rural communities.
Many Mainers lack reliable internet access, which has presented problems during the pandemic for remote workers, remote learners and businesses.