Published by Mainebiz on May 27, 2019
By Dan Kaplan
As a farmer in rural Maine, I’ve noticed that there’s an issue nearly all politicians agree on: the need to get faster, more reliable internet for us country folk (aka rural broadband).
U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, Gov. Janet Mills and state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, are among the elected leaders who have put out position papers and press releases on the issue. But for years I for one was among the “have nots” when it came to decent internet. I don’t doubt their sincerity in backing expanding high speed access. But speeds city folks take for granted can be a dream for us farmers.
Every day that goes by without high-speed access is painful, frustrating and results in lost sales.
I’m a new farmer, but I’m not a young farmer. After a 40-year career in media and marketing, I decided to pursue a lifelong dream a few years ago. I bought a 300-acre farm in Charleston, Penobscot County, and started raising grass-fed beef cattle.
I’m pretty resourceful and I’ve known broadband access was critical to our success. So we tried DSL for a few months, only to find the 10 miles from the main switch meant speeds just slightly better than dial-up. We tried satellite, which again was super slow; the low data cap also made it very expensive. We tried using cell phones as hot spots, which occasionally worked, but we were always losing the connection just at the worst possible moment.
Try loading new photos of rib-eye steaks onto the website with those connections. The worst was printing our weekly UPS labels, inputting all the info, only to have the connection go down and lose all of our work — all with the UPS driver likely to show up at any minute.
Two years ago, I got excited when I heard fiber optic cable was being installed about a mile and half from us. I contacted the service provider, but was told it was unlikely they’d run the cable down my mile-long dirt road with only me and my two neighbors as potential customers. I asked if they could run service just to my house, but the estimate of $18,000 wasn’t feasible.
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