The Island Institute is a non-profit organization serving Maine’s island and coastal communities through a variety of services focusing on community sustainability. The organization works with communities, local nonprofits, and town officials to devise strategies for strengthening community economies, enhancing education, and sharing solutions for community growth. A developing priority of the organization is to strengthen island economies by pursuing high-speed broadband access and data literacy throughout the various communities.
Solving the widespread lack of reliable and fast internet service across Maine’s island communities is an important initiative for the Island Institute. Many of these coastal communities are working to solve this problem by identifying and implementing improvements to infrastructure to support broadband, while raising awareness of the challenge and the ways that broadband can be used to improve business efficiency, workforce development, and quality of life. However, subject matter expertise and comprehensive feasibility studies are often an essential first-step in determining existing infrastructure and planning for improved connectivity. The initial costs associated with this important phase was proving to be a gating factor, preventing many communities from pushing their infrastructure improvement projects forward.
To capitalize on economies of scale and to remove the barrier of these initial costs for individual communities, the Island Institute engaged Tilson Technology to complete a 13-island broadband feasibility study. Being an early statewide partner and advocate for broadband in Maine, Tilson brought deep experience from previous feasibility studies across New England to execute this multi-region feasibility study. The study helped catalyze a highly productive broadband conversation to unfold along Maine’s coast that is still evolving years later: Community successes include uSDA funding awards, the growth and strengthening of the Maine Broadband Coalition, and improvements to state policy, which all have some roots in the study. Directly, the study helped local community members understand their existing assets and options, and pointed towards productive conversations with the private sector. Indirectly, the study allowed organizations like the Island Institute to gain traction in the broadband space at the local, state and federal levels, and to use their media, networking, and community support tools to help build the energy and engagement for solving these challenges.
The Island Institute