Spectrum pressuring Caribou (ME) to abandon public broadband project

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A Maine group that has halted previous municipal broadband networks is out to convince the Caribou City Council to dump the city utilities district’s fiber-optic plans in favor of a Spectrum proposal. The Caribou Utilities District is applying for grants to construct a single strand of dark fiber that they claim will offer gigabit speeds to all Caribou residents, starting with those in the most rural areas. Since the district is not a city department, councilors do not have the authority to pause or stop the project. But the council has been considering expansion proposals from Consolidated Communications and Spectrum. Spectrum has been working to influence councilors’ votes and citizen opinions through the Alliance for Quality Broadband Maine. In October, the Portland-based ad hoc group issued several advertisements that called the project “risky” and “wasteful” and criticized the multi-year timeline for constructing the dark fiber network. Alliance for Quality Broadband Maine appears to have taken the Caribou ads off its Facebook page. But the ads reached at least 5,000 people, according to Facebook data. Caribou’s population as of the 2020 U.S. census was 7,396. The alliance and its partners spent at least $100,000 on one Caribou ad and at least $700,000 on another, the data show. The alliance’s other ads have praised towns like Hampden for rejecting municipal-based broadband expansion projects. Spectrum officials did not respond to requests for comment but sent a letter to Caribou officials on Sept. 13 in which Melinda Kinney, senior director of government affairs for Charter, confirmed the $1.4 million cost of Spectrum’s proposal. The company would expand coverage to 294 unserved homes in Caribou and install 43 miles of dark fiber, increasing coverage to 74.5 miles. The project would take only 12 to 18 months, Kinney said.

Spectrum pressuring Caribou to abandon public broadband project