VETRO called in the cavalry for this year’s in-person 4th Annual Maine Broadband Summit last Friday. Will Mitchell (CEO), Michaela Goodwin (CFO), Alex Hebert, Joe DeGraff, and Sean Dundon all headed north from Portland to Thomas College in Waterville, Maine.
The overlying theme of the Summit focused on how the members of the Maine Broadband Coalition can best leverage the upcoming Federal and State subsidies and private investments, to provide broadband (defined as 100 Mbps/100 Mbps) to all Maine residents. Although the state has come a long way in the last five years with lots of new fiber builds, many Mainers remain unserved, underserved, and/or have no access to affordable broadband.
We were thrilled to meet with a few existing customers like GWI, Pioneer Broadband, Axiom, the Nez Perce Tribe and Sertex. Sertex, a construction and design customer, expressed gratitude for Tori Litchfield from VETRO’s Customer Support team for her help onboarding one of their staff members. Kudos Tori!
We enjoyed hearing the opening talk from Heather Johnson, Maine’s commissioner of economic and community development and a long time broadband champion, along with Andrew Butcher, the president of the new Maine Connectivity Authority. Andrew has built a stellar team at MCA and their presence and impact could be felt throughout the day and the sessions. VETRO is proud to support MCA with our Broadband Intelligence Platform as they deploy creative and aggressive grantmaking programs.
There were video messages from both Senator Collins and Senator King. It’s especially great to hear from Senator King who is the reason we have States in the middle of deploying broadband funds now and who literally wrote the bill that became BEAD. He is a clear broadband leader on the national policy stage.
At one of the interesting breakout sessions we attended, there was a lively discussion about Fixed Wireless for last-mile applications in Maine to serve areas previously only served by satellite providers (Viasat, Starlink) and the use of fixed-wireless as a broadband solution over fiber in high-cost areas (defined by BEAD as over $10,000 per drop). The panelists representing the FWA space in Maine included RedZone Wireless, Cellular One, and a new participant called Outer Reach Broadband. All these companies promote applications of FWA for smart cities, public safety, redundancy, as well as last-mile residential. One thing we like to note at VETRO is that all wireless is underpinned by fiber!
The last session of the day involved the FCC Broadband Map challenge process. Since this map will be the guide for the BEAD allocation for the state of Maine, there are individuals and providers looking to challenge the accuracy of the map. Because the federal infrastructure funds for broadband will be allocated to states based on a formula driven by unserved and underserved locations, itis estimated that each location that can be added to the map that is considered underserved or unserved is worth an additional $4,200 to Maine. The accuracy of this map is critical toward getting all Mainers connected, and it is highly imperfect data in its first iteration. VETRO is working with MCA on some mapping data review and approaches to bulk challenges to the fabric, and will be assisting with blending local data into what MCA hopes will become the best possible map over time.
On another grant funding related note, one topic of concern that was broached by the panel was the fear that some previously awarded RDOF grants may never get built, but that those geographies would be tied up and “blocked” during the BEAD allocation process, which could cause these areas to be left behind (again).
In summary, it was great to re-connect with the Maine Connectivity Authority, and with our broad base of customers in Maine. We love hearing their success stories and seeing how far they’ve come in making broadband a reality for their communities. The Maine Broadband Coalition deserves a ton of credit for bringing diverse interests together to drive tangible progress on bringing better broadband to Maine!
About VETRO, Inc.
VETRO builds software that makes it radically simpler and faster for broadband providers to plan, design, build, and operate their fiber optic networks. Our map-based SaaS platform is easier to use and more powerful than traditional tools, and enables network owners, operators and sponsors to benefit from a modern, integrated, and connected digital hub for their physical network assets.