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“Our People Are Our Biggest Asset:” Determined Coastal Community Stands Up for Broadband

Posted by Timothy P. Hobbs, State Director, Rural Development in Broadband Rural
Mar 06, 2020
Lisa Hanscom with blueberry muffins
Lisa Hanscom, Owner, Welch Farm shares muffins made from blueberries on the farm.

The bold and rugged coast of Downeast Maine is home to a rural community of 300, where the people have made a living off the land and sea for generations. The Town of Roque Bluffs contains a state park and boasts some of the most beautiful coastline in Maine - yet it is the people who are its biggest asset. When they saw an opportunity to bring broadband to their tiny town, they were determined to make it happen.

Lisa Hanscom, fifth generation owner of Welch Farm, is one resident who has had her share of frustration with the lack of broadband access. The 300 acres blueberry farm produces 50,000 pounds of blueberries per year. Lisa knows first-hand how difficult it is to run a small business with limited broadband service.

“I have files that should only take ten minutes to download, but can take 10 hours or more,” Lisa told me. “Broadband is key here. The future of the farm depends on it.”

Walter Hanscom, Assistant Fire Chief
Walter Hanscom, Assistant Fire Chief, hopes broadband will help train volunteer firemen.

Lisa’s father, Wayne Hanscom, is the Assistant Fire Chief in Roque Bluffs as well as the neighboring town of Jonesport. The town recently received 10 computers to assist these First Responders with critical training. However, the firemen are unable to download the programs they need due to poor and unreliable internet connections.

Lisa heard about USDA Rural Development’s ReConnect program and decided her town could not afford not to use their grit and determination to pursue funding. Her fellow Selectperson Karen Miller, who lives with her husband Bob on the tip of a peninsula surrounded by Englishman Bay, says “So often people focus on what they can’t do, when they could be focusing on what they CAN do.”

The Town of Roque Bluffs received a ReConnect Grant from USDA Rural Development in the amount of $893,170. The future system will connect to the Downeast Ring of Maine's "three-ring binder" network backbone in Machias, a distance of 4.5 miles from the town line on Roque Bluffs Road. Any resident who wishes to sign up for service during the initial installation process will have fiber installed to their residence with no additional charge.

Bob and Karen Miller
Bob and Karen Miller enjoy their hobbies which depend on internet connectivity for design work.

For Bob and Karen Miller, seniors living in a state where the winters can feel endless, having broadband will allow them to do what they love. Bob is an expert carpenter who makes ornate bowls, planes, and decorative clocks out of wood, while Karen is an advanced quilter, with beautiful patterns and a large craft room. Having reliable broadband will enrich their lives, allowing them to do the hobbies that bring them so much joy, and adding to their quality of life in rural Maine.

In Maine, $9.87 million has been invested in four infrastructure projects through USDA’s ReConnect Program. In addition to the Town of Roque Bluffs, The Town of Arrowsic, Monhegan Plantation, and Biddeford Internet Corporation dba GWI also received funding. The funds will improve rural e-Connectivity for approximately 1,352 rural Maine households and 215 businesses. For more information on the ReConnect program, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

Category/Topic: Broadband Rural

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