Building Our Broadband
Islesboro Municipal Broadband Overview
The Islesboro Municipal Broadband (IMB) is a Town owned and operated Internet access utility for the benefit of the residents and businesses on Islesboro.
As an IMB subscriber your home or business will access the Internet using a high-capacity symmetrical 1-gigabit fiber-optic broadband connection. Your home or business will be equipped with a private password-protected Wi-Fi network, capability for wired Ethernet, and a provision to connect your current phone wiring. You will pay a $360 yearly subscriber fee in June at the Islesboro Town Office. An optional unlimited local-long distance phone plan is available for an additional $25/mo. including state and federal taxes that can preserve your 734 exchange numbers.
With the IMB Broadband you and your family can:
- Use the Internet at the same time as everyone else
- Nurture connections to off-island family, friends, and business associates with e-mail or video conferencing like SkypeTM, FacetimeTM and GoToMeetingTM
- Use the World-Wide-Web for e-Commerce, news, information, entertainment, gaming, modern educational opportunities from all over the world and in-home tele-health services
- Stream TV content - movies, shows and TV channels. Eliminate the need for other TV services
If you need support or the IMB needs repair, help can be reached by dialing a 24x7 support center. If they can’t resolve the issue then a technician will be dispatched and get to you as soon as possible during regular weekly business hours. Maintaining the system in good working order is the town’s responsibility. Thus service and support is generally provided to the subscriber at no charge, unless the repair is due to your negligence or damage to the equipment. The other fees are explained below.
The system will be operated under a contract with GWI of Biddeford, ME. GWI will support subscribers, maintain the town’s fiber and electronics, and train a group of on-island technicians able to solve most day-to-day issues and installations.
The system will be constructed by our low-bidder, Waveguide of Nashua, NH starting in the fall of 2016 and continuing into the early summer of 2017 (weather permitting).
Is this a good deal for me?
Comparing the cost of your current telephone and Internet plan to the IMB 1-gigabit plan is easy. Just compare what you pay per month now for phone and Internet to the IMB $360 annual Internet subscription ($30 per month). An optional unlimited local and domestic long distance phone plan is available for an extra $25 per line per month including taxes.
What about the increased property taxes to pay for the construction bond and so forth? With the affirmative town-meeting vote in June to construct the IMB network, the cost to build and maintain the network infrastructure will be included in forthcoming town budgets and become part of everyone’s property tax bill whether they subscribe or not.
Further, broadband means fast access to any Internet content. Many islanders will save significant dollars when they switch from satellite TV to streamed TV content. We will hold a tutorial to help you understand how to make this switch.
Becoming a Subscriber
Step 1 - Tell Us You Want to Subscribe - Before October 15, 2016
Drop your information at the Town Office, mail it to PO Box 76, call (207) 734-2253 or email your information to: IMB@ Returning your information now costs nothing – it simply puts your property on the list to be installed during the anticipated spring-summer 2017 construction phase when there is no charge for installation. Include this: townofislesboro.com
- Property Physical Street Address
- Property Owner Contact Information
- Islesboro & Offseason Phone Numbers
- Mailing Addresses
- Islesboro Address, if any
- Owner Mailing Address
- Island Contact, Caretaker, etc. Name, Phone & Email
- Interested in the Optional Phone Plan?
- Notes for IMB Team?
Even though the town is providing free installations, you are responsible to get your property ready for a successful installation. For most customers this will be a simple matter like checking that there is a spare 110v receptacle handy. However for some subscribers say with buried utilities, getting ready may entail having a contractor install conduits at your expense.
If you skip the construction-phase no-charge installation then when/if you do subscribe you will be charged the actual time and materials for installation– a minimum of $600.
If you have questions or need advice to get ready, please call the Town Office at 734-2253 and they will either answer your questions or connect you with someone who can come by to discuss your readiness and make recommendations. If you need work done, like new conduits or interior wiring, you can arrange with an island contractor or ask Waveguide, our construction contractor, to provide an estimate for doing this work. The Town will brief the island contractors on the proper specs and options.
Step 2 – Get Your Property Ready for Installation - Now thru Spring 2017
Getting your property ready for installation is your responsibility. We want to make sure when the team arrives a successful installation will result. For the great majority of subscribers, getting ready is easy. The team will run a fiber cable from the nearest IMB fiber backbone to an exterior connection box at your home or business and from there to a nearby interior electronics box that requires a 110v wall outlet within 6-8’. This interior electronics box is your WiFi router and it comes with brackets to stand on its own or be wall mounted.
If your property has buried utility conduits or multiple buildings then addressing these situations is your responsibility - the Town-funded, no charge installation does not include such work. The Installation Details section below and the town website: (www.townofislesboro.com/imb) provide more information.
If you have questions or need advice to get ready, please call the Town Office and they will either answer your questions or connect you with someone who can come by to discus your readiness and make recommendations. If you need work done like new conduits, you can arrange with an island contractor or ask Waveguide, our construction contractor, to provide an estimate for doing this work. The Town has provided our island contractors with the proper specs and options.
Step 3 – Outside Fiber Hook-Up - Spring-Summer 2017
The Town Office will mail you the IMB Owner’s Agreement that provides permission for the installation & maintenance teams to enter your property. The Office will advise you of the team’s schedule for your neighborhood. If your property is ready, the installation team will connect your fiber drop from the nearest IMB fiber backbone to the outside of your home or business at an exterior connection box adjacent to where your current phone and power utilities attach. You need not be present for this procedure as it is all done outside.
Step 4 – Broadband Light-Up - Spring-Summer 2017
The Town Office will mail you the Subscriber Agreement along with an invoice for the prorated portion of your 1st yearly subscriber fee, if any. The owner or renter should the Subscriber Agreement and return it with a payment to the Town Office. The Office will then schedule the team to come into your home or business and install the wall-mounted IMB electronics box just inside from the exterior connection box. Someone 18 years of age or older who can make decisions needs to be home for this step - the team must be able to get in and your power must be on. You need to provide a spare nearby 110v outlet within 6-8 feet of the location.
The team will then get your new broadband Internet and optional phone configured, tested and going. The team will clean up the installation debris - inside and out. They will provide you with some documentation and The ONT has an information sticker with the 24x7 support center phone number to call if you have issues.
The included WiFi is the latest AC standard capable of high speeds and high capacity. The increased performance of the AC standard is sufficient to cover most homes and businesses.
The installation team has some flexibility in performing the installation. For example, finding an acceptable ONT wall location. However the team is not authorized to perform other interior or exterior work. Distributing wired Ethernet, connecting or adding Wi-Fi access points, configuring devices to connect to the Wi-Fi and so forth are a subscriber’s responsibility. Please contact your electrical or technology contractor.
For homes or businesses with existing internal Ethernet wiring subscribers can choose an exterior non-Wi-Fi ONT wired directly to your existing network. Advise the Town Office if this is your choice.
The electronics box comes with a small battery backup to power your Internet access thru short periods of main electrical power failure. This battery backup only powers the IMB electronics and will not power your computers, etc. As always on the island, consider other power backup capabilities.
If your outside fiber hook up was installed and you don’t choose to become a subscriber, your property will be put into a disconnected status. Reconnection and installation of the ONT at a later date will cost $300 plus any prorated yearly subscriber fee.
Islesboro Municipal Broadband Fees
Yearly Broadband Internet Access
$360 per year
No Charge, except to get your property ready
Post Construction Phase New Installations
Time & Materials - $600+
Late Payment Fee
$25 per month
Reconnect an installed ONT
$100 plus any prorated yearly subscriber fee
Reconnect with ONT installation
$300 plus any prorated yearly subscriber fee
24x7 Telephone Support
Onsite Service M-F 8-5 to insure your IMB ONT is working properly
No Charge unless issue caused by the subscriber
GWI Optional Phone Plan – residential services per Line
$25 per month including taxes
IMB Equipment Damage
Time & Materials
Frequently Asked Questions
Who pays for the IMB system and how?
At the June 18th, 2016 annual town meeting, the Islesboro voters approved a 20year $3.8M bond measure to build the IMB network to deliver 1-gigabit service to every home and business on the island that chooses to subscribe. The bond funds pay for all the construction labor and materials, the fiber cable, the electronics and installation to the premises of all who sign up during the construction phase. The town budget cost for the bond debt service will be approximately $266,000 per year starting in 2017.
Once constructed, the IMB network will operate as an Enterprise Fund, just like the Health Center. There will be an oversight committee to aid the town manager and select board monitor subscriber quality and address issues. One of the town front office people will be your primary point of contact. The town will collect a $360/year per subscriber fees to cover the per subscriber costs. The fees are set by the Select Board and Town Meeting to be affordable to all residents so as to make it as painless to subscribe as possible. This implies that taxpayers may subsidize some of the operating expenses with a town meeting approved subsidy - just like the operation of the Health Center where the fees do not cover all the yearly expenses. Assuming that the Subscriber fee is $360 per year, the subsidy (in addition to the bond debt service) will reach approximately $175,000 in 2018 when the system is fully operational.
What about this phone service?
GWI, the Town’s network operator, offers an unlimited local & domestic long distance phone plan for an additional monthly fee of approximately $25 including taxes. You can transfer your 734 numbers to this new service and use your existing phones and wiring. To help our planning, please tell us your interest in the phone plan when you sign up. GWI will send the details to all potential subscribers. Multiple lines as well as business phone systems are available.
Is there a seasonal rate?
No, there is no seasonal rate.
What happens if I don’t sign up now?
IMB Internet is optional. However, after the construction installation team completes its work and departs the island, subscribers will pay the actual time and material costs for installations. This will be $600 or more depending on your property situation.
What happens if I get the construction phase outside fiber hook up, but don’t pay my subscriber fee?
Your property will remain in a disconnected status. If/when you decide to subscribe you will pay a fee to reconnect and install the ONT electronics - $300 plus any prorated yearly subscriber fee.
Who owns the equipment?
The Town owns all the IMB equipment up to and including the ONT, its power supply, wiring and fiber. You are responsible for labor and materials to repair any damage to the Town-owned equipment.
I rent, what about me?
The IMB connection is to a particular property. Work with your owner or landlord to get the property on the installation list and decide who will pay the yearly subscription fee. When the installation time nears, the owner will need to sign an Owner’s Agreement while the renter signs the Subscriber Agreement.
I am building a new house. What then?
Installations after the construction phase will incur a labor and materials installation charge estimated to be at least $600. You will sign up at the Town Office and they will schedule the technician to come out and give you an estimate of the costs. If you agree to the cost, then you pay the installation costs at the Town Office along with your prorated subscription fee.
I have multiple buildings on my property. How does this work?
The no charge construction phase installation provides one fiber drop per property (Map/Lot). For homes or a business with several buildings or larger buildings, one 1-gigabit connection is more than enough Internet capacity, however, redistribution of the Internet on such properties is the subscriber’s responsibility.
Additional 1-gigabit drops are available, but will incur a labor and materials installation charge estimated to be at least $600 and a separate subscription fee.
What happens if I shut the power off for the winter season?
The ONT electronics will be fine. Your Internet and phone will not work. The Central monitoring office will detect that the ONT is powered off. When you return and turn the power on the ONT will reconnect. However there are no seasonal rates.
What if I fail to pay my subscription fee or let my service lapse?
If you fail to pay and let your subscription lapse the town will send the technician to retrieve the ONT electronics. If you then decide to reconnect there will be a $300 fee for the technician and equipment plus any prorated subscription fee. If you reconnect within 4 months, there is a $100 administration fee plus any prorated subscription fee.
What Does the IMB electronics box provide?
The town-owned Optical network Terminal (ONT) provides a password protected Wi-Fi (latest AC standard) network as well as 4 wired Ethernet ports and 2 phone ports.
Is this a reliable system?
The IMB network is a passive fiber-to-the-premise design. This design is used in many US municipalities and across the world. It has proven to be reliable in all sorts of conditions. It is passive in that there are no electronic components except in the central electronics building and the subscriber’s premise.
This means that each subscriber essentially has a fiber optic strand from his or her premise (property) to the central electronics building adjacent to the Town Office. From there the system connects to the Internet via a high-speed, high-capacity, high-reliability link running under the bay.
There are also three 1-gigabit wireless links brining service to subscribers on 700 Acre, Minot and Seal islands.
What Happens If Electrical Power Fails?
There will be a generator keeping the Town’s fiber network, electronics and connection to the mainland running.
In addition there is a small battery backup for the ONT installed at your property. Please note that this battery is for the network connection but not any additional gear that you may have connected such as TV, computer, wireless-phone, game box, etc. People can make their own choice about a standby generator, etc.
Does This Mean That We Have Wi-Fi Across The Island?
No, but the town will offer public Wi-Fi at several locations – Town Office, Ferry Landing etc.
What About Town Facilities and The School And Library?
All Town facilities will have one or more Internet drops installed.
Currently the School and Library have reasonable broadband service provided by a State legislative mandate. The proposed Town system does not impact what they are currently using. However, we are designing and installing the system to support significant school and library bandwidth needs in the future.
What About Network Neutrality?
The term Network Neutrality refers broadly to the ongoing public policy debate on whether Internet providers can charge for or otherwise throttle certain content providers in favor of paying content providers. Net Neutrality specifically refers to the position that all content providers should be treated equally. In contrast the nation’s Telephone and Cable providers are lobbying Congress to allow them to charge content providers for access to an Internet Fast Lane.
Both the IMB and GWI subscribe to the principle of preserving an Open and Neutral Internet - absolute Net Neutrality. Our system is open and neutral to all content providers.
What About My Privacy Online?
Can I Keep Fairpoint Or Other Services?
You have complete control. You can keep your existing service providers if you like. Or you can try all new service providers. Or use any combination of old and new. This broadband project doesn’t force you to do anything – it just opens a world of exceptional broadband options for you.
What About Residents Who Need, But Cannot Afford A Difficult Installation Or Subscriber Fee?
The Committee feels that every island household should be connected. Construction phase subscribers paying the yearly subscription fee will have an installation at no additional cost.
Even at these prices we understand that a few residents will not be able to afford connection. Further, all island households with school age children should be connected to allow access to modern education capabilities. We look to existing community organizations and/or private donations to help underwrite these needs.
What Happens After A Big Storm?
As we know there are times when the island pole lines come down. Our experience is that the fiber cable, like telephone cable, tends to be more resilient to breakage than the power lines. Small breaks in the line are expected and can be repaired by the on-island service contractors. Large breaks can be repaired by on-call off-island repair crews.
The yearly operating budget provides for a few such events.
The Town will purchase disaster recovery insurance to cover significant storm damage requiring off-island contractors to repair.
How Long Will This System Last?
We have been told by Corning who will supply the fiber to anticipate that the physical fiber installation will last for 40 years before a major upgrade is needed. We have no way of knowing what such a replacement system would look like.
Technically the fiber infrastructure can deliver much higher speeds and capacity than 1gbps service if/when needed. Getting beyond 1-gigabit would entail an upgrade to the central electronics and the subscriber’s ONT. If this were needed, the capital expense would be put to the Town for a vote. We don’t anticipate such need in the foreseeable future but it is good to know it is possible.
What Does This Do For Cell Phone Service On The Island?
This proposal does not address the dark areas of the island cellular phone coverage. Our perception is that the cellular provider market, unlike the telephone and cable market, is working and investing to improve cell phone coverage in the Pen Bay region. If asked, our fiber backbone will allow for cellular providers to connect their local towers to our fiber in order to improve coverage.
Also, subscribers can consider devices to provide local cellular hot spots in their home to use a customer’s in home broadband connection to provide service.
How Does This Compare To Cellular Data Services Like 4G LTE From Verizon Or Red Zone?
4G LTE Cellular data services are available from all the major carriers, i.e., Verizon, ATT, Sprint, T-Mobile. These data services deliver 25-50mbps if there are not too many concurrent users in your zone relying on the data services at the same time. As concurrent use goes up throughput goes down because cellular data services share a fixed amount of capacity among all the users. For email and web browsing this is hardly noticeable, however for video streaming or video chat, it is often noticeable. These cellular carrier plans are typically priced on the amount of data consumed. They can become unexpectedly expensive.
Coverage of cellular voice and data service has been slowly improving on Islesboro though there are still some dark spots of coverage on the island. Thus some well-located residents are more than adequately served by their smartphones and cellular data plans for email and web browsing. We feel the Islesboro broadband offering is a better deal (cheaper, more reliable, faster, and with no data caps) but this is a personal choice.
A Maine-based company, Red Zone Wireless has announced plans to deploy a 4G LTE wireless broadband network in Maine over the coming years. This is an innovative approach to reach the rural areas of our state that have little or no access to broadband. They utilize a wireless technology similar to that used by 4G equipped smart phones and uses existing cellular towers or requires local tower construction in order to deliver a signal. We understand that Red Zone has no plans to deploy towers on Islesboro over the next two to four years. Furthermore, wireless signals degrade over water. Without towers on the island, Islesboro residents will not be able to fully utilize the capability of this alternative offering. Their service is also limited by other technological considerations. To compare pricing: the Red Zone system provides up to 50 Mbps of throughput for $99/month for those few markets (Portland) that can get it. Our proposal is 500 for $75/month.
We have been aware of the Red Zone innovative approach and we think wireless systems like Red Zone have a place in connecting rural areas. Our opportunity is different in that we can build a faster, higher capacity, longer lived and more reliable infrastructure on Islesboro for a reasonable price and operate the system in a not-for-profit manner. The fiber optic technology proposed by the Committee will provide world-class bandwidth for decades. The 4G LTE technologies that support Red Zone’s offerings will likely be surpassed within five years.
Why Did You Pick GWI? I’ve Heard That Some Residents Have Not Had Good Luck With Their Support Services.
We are well aware of these issues and have spoken extensively to GWI about how to assure quality, timely support. A town employee will be named as the primary point of contact for non-technical subscriber issues. This person will work directly with a GWI counterpart to assure the quality delivery of service. In addition, we believe on-island support personnel GWI proposes in addition to their telephone support can improve the situation. We will continue to refine the support protocols. Also, frankly, GWI is a Maine-based company hiring Maine residents and we like that.
How Did This IMB Come About?
Since Roger’s 1996 talk on the Internet at the Historical Society many residents have felt the lack of competitive Broadband was an anchor on the economic vitality of the island and its summer community. There are many consequences of this situation. For example it limits the ability of students to get at the best modern education and it makes the island an increasingly unattractive place to live, work or visit. Over the years this triggered a series of meetings with the incumbent providers to see what quick fixes could be done. Few if any have produced results. Late in 2012 the situation and resident letters inspired the Board of Selectmen to act by forming a Committee to understand the problem and recommend a solution to the Town.
The Committee entered into a contract with Tilson Engineering of Portland to do a Broadband census of the island, outline the current mainland market and technologies and lay out a protocol to get to a recommendation. Generous private donations and a funding match from the Town technology budget underwrote this work. In the resulting report (late 2013) Tilson’s census showed the scope of the problem and how Islesboro could resolve it. Tilson recommended that any Islesboro Broadband solution should be a fiber-based network capable of 1000 mbps or 300 times what is available today. Such an infrastructure could support higher speeds as the technology of the end-point modems improves. This provided a framework for discussion with any potential Internet service providers.
The next step for the Committee was to engage Tilson in a second phase to poll roughly 22 Broadband vendors in a Request For Information or RFI process to specify the costs and solution to achieve the island’s Broadband three goals. Again, private donations and the Town jointly funded this. Three vendors responded by the deadline at the end of this past summer.
Each of the three vendor proposals was quite detailed and complete. The Committee and Tilson then interacted with the respondents to clarify the proposals and orchestrated a comparison. Many in-person and telephone meetings ensued.
Bearing this data in mind, the Committee decided to engage with GWI to flush out a business plan and details for an Islesboro-GWI joint undertaking. If that effort proved such a partnership could work and be sustainable, then this would be the group’s recommendation to the Town.
In October 2014 the Town signed a time-limited exclusivity agreement with GWI in order for the company, Tilson and the Committee to add significant detail to the capital costs and business model. This has resulted in a workable pro-forma business model that can be supported by adequate (50+/-%) residence and business subscriptions to the service. However the Committee went a step further and proposed that if the Town approved this then the Town should provide the absolute lowest cost Broadband service to ALL island residences and businesses from day 1.
Why Not Consider Fairpoint Or Timewarner Cable?
Fairpoint provided a very detailed proposal. Time Warner provided an overview of what they could provide. However both proposal responses require confidentiality in the disclosure of the details. That said, both proposals were deemed inferior for several reasons:
The cost of all the proposals was consistent with the earlier Tilson estimates of the cost and consistent with the GWI proposal. The GWI proposal was the only one to include free installation.
The GWI proposal is the only one to stipulate that the Town would have ownership of the infrastructure, a long-term performance guarantee, influence & control of pricing and service quality guarantees.
The GWI proposal provides Support Services via telephone partnered with on-island personnel equipped with a bucket truck.
The GWI proposal was the only one to provide 1000 mbps speeds that we determined would serve the Town for several generations.
We’re doing this to serve our community members. To make sure our businesses can get access to the resources they need. To make sure our residents can participate in rapidly unfolding entertainment and communication opportunities. To make sure our students can learn to communicate with the tools and techniques they will need to survive and thrive. To make sure telemedicine will be available in the homes of our aging population. All of this is to enhance our ability to preserve the life style we cherish by maintaining and strengthening a vibrant year round community.
About Our Work
The Select Board kicked off this project in 2014 to access the island’s Internet access issues and recommend solutions. The core group of Roger, Page, Vern and Arch began the effort with help from Janet, our Town manager.
There have been three phases:
Phase 1 was a study to identify our problem and potential solution. 2014-2015
The resulting census and report provided us with the information necessary for us to begin serious dialog with Internet providers interested in helping solve our access problems. The conclusion was that we had unserved and underserved residents. We had spotty service and support and that we lagged the nearby mainland in terms of choices, price and no foreseeable scenario to have access to the FCC definition of minimum broadband service – 25mbps.
Phase 2 - ask for proposals – early 2015.
We asked for proposals from a variety of incumbent Internet service providers to determine which might have a proposal for us. We selected a proposal from GWI for the town to build the network infrastructure and that they operate it under contract to the town.
Phase 3 – Design the System and Bid out the construction - Mid-2015 to early 2016
On May 30th, 2015 voters approved spending $206,830 to fund the up-front work needed to get a firm construction bid for the Committee's proposal to build and operate a 1gpbs fiber Internet for all residents and business on the island. This one-time expense of $206,830 will pay for the engineering, design, consulting, legal and pole-attachment agreements needed to put the network construction out to bid. This work will be done over the summer and fall. It will yield a firm bid for construction costs, a GWI operating contract and business plan, subscriber data, pricing, etc. This is essential info voters need to make the final choice at a subsequent Town Meeting on a question to give the project a formal go/no-go decision.
Did We Consider Privately Funding This?
Yes, the Committee began our planning assuming that private investors would own this fiber infrastructure. However several significant things became clear after we sought legal advice on the potential corporate structure. First, a Town municipal bond will be significantly cheaper capital. Two, there are many significant tax benefits in Maine for a 100% municipal-owned communications infrastructure. Three, the group could model no business plan that would be low-price to the subscribers and return the capital to the investors in, say, 10 years.
Here are the original RFP documents for reference.
Broadband construction: www.townofislesboro.com/bbrfp