Internet and cable TV giant Charter Communications said Thursday it plans to spend $82 million to upgrade and expand broadband service in Maine, and expects to acquire a local internet service provider along the way.

Charter, which does business as Spectrum, said it will use $70 million over the next two years to upgrade connections in areas across the state where the company already provides services. It will invest another $12 million to begin offering broadband to 3,500 homes and small businesses without access in Somerset and Oxford counties.

Charter, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, is also buying Bee Line Cable, based in Madison, for an undisclosed price. Regulatory approvals have already been received for the purchase, according to Charter, which expects the deal to close soon.

Charter is one of many companies and government agencies in Maine working to expand internet access for residents. But according to data from the Maine Connectivity Authority, only 13% of residents have high-quality access, with 69% of residents only accessing slower speeds and 18% unable to access the internet at all.

“Everyone’s demand for high-speed internet, broadband, is only increasing, not decreasing,” Maine Connectivity President Andrew Butcher said. “(This kind of project) has an impact on cost and creates more desirable places for people to live and work and for community anchor institutions and small businesses to thrive.”

Charter hopes to offer internet speeds of multiple gigabits-per-second in its existing service area by the end of 2025, with 1-gigabit service in the newly served communities. (A 1-gigabit internet connection typically can download a two-hour movie in about 25 seconds.)


The company has about 466,000 Spectrum customers in Maine. Spokesperson Lara Pritchard said in the coming months, pending final approval on applications and permits, Charter will be upgrading equipment and the infrastructure on existing poles.

“We know that one of the most important things broadband providers like us can do is to keep expanding our networks and connecting even more communities as we’ve done in Maine,” Pritchard said. “By bringing high-speed broadband access to more people, we are empowering them to find the opportunities they need to thrive – regardless of whether they live in a small town or an urban center.”


For broadband advocates like Charlie Woodworth, executive director of Greater Franklin Development Council, and Myles Smith with the Maine Broadband Coalition, the impact of the upgrades and expansions can be far-reaching.

“Places that do not have good connectivity are going to get left behind. But the places that are well connected are really well set up for the future and this includes Maine where we have an excellent workforce,” Smith said.

In Franklin County, Woodworth said, projects like Charter’s might even help turn around the decline in population.


“(Broadband expansion) allows younger families to move to the area … children will be able to do their homework from home and so it’s no longer going to be a barrier,” Woodworth said. “Young people want to live here. They could bring their jobs and work remotely from here. And so this allows that to happen and we can repopulate our schools.”

Even so, Butcher fears that while investments like these chip away at the goal of providing more access to Mainers, the scope of the problem is only growing. The Maine Connectivity Authority is issuing challenges to the Federal Communication Commission’s data map of internet accessibility. So far, Butcher said, the agency has collected data and pointed out 160,000 inconsistencies in FCC’s map.

And as time passes and more data is collected through the Maine Connectivity Authority’s “Connect the Dots” public data collection project, he fears the gap will only grow.

“The biggest challenge is that while we are making great progress and deploying funds to address underserved areas, we’re also getting better and more accurate information as to the nature of the problem,” he said. “It’s quite possible that we might have a bigger problem on our hands than we knew a year ago. There may be more unserved locations than previously identified.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.