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January 25, 2019

Redzone's 2019 expansion will stretch from Berwick to Fort Kent

Courtesy / Redzone Graphic shows Redzone's plans for expansion in 2019. Courtesy / Redzone

The broadband services company Redzone will expand to 26 communities stretching from Berwick north to Fort Kent in 2019, bringing its customer base to more than 300,000 Maine households and businesses.

The multi-million dollar expansion by the Rockland-based company, which is privately funded, follows an equally ambitious expansion in 2018, that included networks serving Farmington, Dover-Foxcroft, Calais and Machias.

The 2019 expansion will be in 10 of the state’s 16 counties, and focuses on areas targeted by 35,000 service requests made by Maine businesses and residents in 2018, a Friday news release from the company said.

Once the expansion is completed, the company said its coverage will be available to more than 100 communities and 50% of all Maine homes .

10-county plan

Communities set for expansion in 2019, by county, are:

  • Androscoggin County: Durham, Greene, Lisbon, LIvermore Falls;
  • Aroostook County: Caribou, Fort Kent, Presque Isle;
  • Cumberland County: New Gloucester, Windham;
  • Franklin County: New Sharon, Wilton;
  • Hancock: Bucksport;
  • Kennebec County: Gardiner, Oakland, Winthrop;
  • Oxford County: Rumford;
  • Piscataquis County: Milo;
  • Somerset County: Fairfield, Madison, Norridgewock, Skowhegan;
  • Waldo County: Frankfort, Morrill;
  • York County: Alfred, Berwick, Waterboro.

Portions of 50 communities adjacent to the communities listed will also be part of the network expansion, the company said.

Model for expansion

Jim McKenna, president of Redzone Wireless, said the company’s technology combined with its financial model allow it to expand broadband quickly to rural areas — 50,000 customers in 12 months.

The company, which started in 2014, leases wireless spectrum bands, rather than using cable or fiber. A $4 million loan from Camden National Bank, backed by the Finance Authority of Maine, supported its startup.

Redzone’s 5Gx fixed wireless broadband network is considered one of the largest FCC licensed fixed wireless broadband deployments in the U.S., the release said. The trademark 5Gx desribes a version of 5G technology that is adapted specifically for rural and lower-population area broadband, the company said.

“We have a powerful combination of key drivers that make our fixed wireless broadband advantageous in Maine, including premium exclusive FCC licensed 2.5 GHz spectrum, and dramatically lower deployment costs versus fiber or cable,” McKenna said in the news release.

“At the same time, Redzone continues to advance the reliability, capacity and speed of its technology and network in areas where it has already seen tremendous growth and demand.” “The key advantage of Redzone’s approach for closing Maine’s rural broadband gap is economic sustainability,” said Michael Forcillo, Redzone executive vice president. “While everyone agrees that broadband is a high priority essential service for all Maine residents and businesses, Redzone has developed an innovative business model that works in low population rural areas, and can be self-sustaining without taxpayer-funded subsidies.”

A state priority

Redzone in 2019 also will complete network upgrades in areas that were started last year, including Sanford, Bath, Monhegan Island, Union, Westport Island, Portland, Falmouth and Belfast.

The company’s 25 Mbps (megabits per second) speeds are faster than the 10 Mbps minimum required by ConnectME, the state program to expand broadband. The Federal Communications Commission recommends 12 to 25 Mbps for a household of more than one person.

The faster speed, 25 Mbps, is basically what's needed for live streaming, gaming, many business applications, as well as for those who use multiple devices at the same time, Forcillo said.

Many of the state's rural users who have broadband are well below ConnectME's minimum recommended speed, part of the statewide effort involving a variety of organizations and broadband companies to extend access in the state.

Redzone said in the Tuesday release it was formed based on the premise that everyone in Maine deserves access to affordable high-quality broadband, which increases the quality of life in the state ranging from access to information and social connection to access to essential services, including employment and health care.

“The benefits of strengthening Maine through better broadband are critical and foundational for sustainable social, community, and economic development,” it said.

Redzone’s move to help close the rural broadband gap got an endorsement from Gov. Janet Mills, who has made broadband expansion one of the priorities of her new administration.

“With the availability of faster Internet speeds, especially in rural areas of Maine, we can open the state’s doors to future business investment, expand educational opportunities, and attract more people to live and work here,” Mills said in the news release. “This expansion is a welcome step in the direction of improving our broadband infrastructure and strengthening our economy.”

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