WOODSTOCK — An effort to get more than 20,000 homes in rural Maine connected to high-speed internet service will take hard work and dedication, representatives of businesses, government, education and private organizations were told recently.

Mark Ouellette, president of Axiom Technologies of Machias, addressed about 50 leaders at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center this month on the progress his company is making to get Mainers connected to broadband service.

Axiom was hired by Maine West, a collaboration of local and regional organizations dedicated to addressing rural challenges and enhancing community well-being. The money came from a ConnectME Authority grant.

Axiom is working to deliver critical broadband services to rural communities, according to its website.

“Over the past decade, we have designed and constructed more than 100 access points connecting more than 2,500 square miles in one of America’s most challenging terrains — rural Maine,” the website says. “We are here to help create a brighter digital future for everyone. This is about much more than a fast connection — it is about people’s livelihoods, education, and well-being. “

According to Ouellette, over 20,000 homes in Maine still do not have access to broadband internet service.

“Through Axiom’s planning process, the Maine West region will have an actionable plan to start to address the digital divide that all of rural Maine is facing,” Ouellette said.

Ouellette and Susan Corbett, also of Axiom, gave an overview of the work done so far in Oxford County. Twenty towns in northern Oxford County have established broadband goals, and Axiom plans to meet with representatives from the major internet service providers in the region — Spectrum, FairPoint and First Light — to map where they offer service and identify gaps, they said.

They also pointed out certain trends that will influence broadband connectivity, such as the growing base of small businesses that should have websites and use social media.

The pair said the county’s elderly prefer to live at home, so having fast, reliable internet access for health and education services, and family and friends would benefit them.

School Administrative District 17 Superintendent Richard Colpitts said having broader internet access would improve communication between the schools and parents and guardians. There are roughly 1,000 families in the Oxford Hills School District that must be called on days that school is canceled or delayed because they don’t have internet service, he said.

“Bringing interested parties together to talk about what is it the community wants for its economic future and what goals broadband can help meet is a critical piece of a planning grant, and an essential piece of the puzzle on expanding access to high speed broadband,” Peggy Schaffer, co-chairwoman of the Maine Broadband Coalition, said. “It’s not just about the pipe and the connection, it’s about what you are going to do with it, and how it’s going to make your community better,” she said.

“There is no white knight or magic bullet that is going to bring connectivity to rural Maine,” Schaffer said. “It’s going to be through the hard work and dedication of individuals, organizations, businesses in the area that can create the energy, excitement and executable plan to bring high-speed broadband.”

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Community and business leaders from Western Maine listen to a presenation on expanding high-speed internet access to rural Mainers. The meeting was held this month at the University of Maine 4-H Camp and Learning Center in Woodstock. (Jessica Perkins photo)

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