Today, most broadband infrastructure is deployed without any deep community engagement before shovels hit the ground. In the majority of projects, a market assessment is made and a business plan is put in place, but community needs are not a foundational piece of the network design and deployment process. We think there’s a better way: build networks for each distinct community, and their actual demand for services. In other words, understand the real needs of the community at the start of any project and build a network that helps solve some of their greatest challenges.

Katahdin Fiber Founders event at Design Lab, downtown Millinocket

Pursuing this better approach, last week we traveled to the Katahdin region in northernmost Maine to work directly with elected officials, community leaders, residents, and business owners for the Katahdin Fiber project.

We kicked-off the trip with a “Network Founders” event. In each community, we work to recruit local champions who can help us lead the grassroots campaign to educate, energize, and sign up their fellow residents and businesses. At this evening event, we gave Founders an overview of the project, answered questions, and handed out posters, postcards, and beer koozies!

Standing banners for every event on the ground — including ones Founders want to self-organize
Postcards for Founders to hand out to folks around town and drop into the mailboxes of their fellow residents

Next up, we met with the Katahdin Region Broadband Utility — an entity that was set up to oversee the process of broadband deployment in the region, and a group of passionate folks who will be this network’s most important advocates. This was a powerful meeting to continue ensuring that we’re building this network according to the needs of the community. Throughout the project, we’ll have consistent communication with this group to maintain our partnership.

Finally, we ended the trip with a bang at two community events: Trail’s End Festival and the Millinocket Truck Pulls. The power of these events came from being able to talk to members of the community live and face-to-face; we explained the benefits of fiber broadband networks, answered questions, distributed information, and collected expressions of interest to help us map and measure demand.

What’s worse than warm beer? Slow internet.

This kind of community engagement is essential to build local trust; is critical to measuring and mapping demand so that the network is economically viable from day one; and ensures a network designed and deployed specific to each market. The Neighborly team is now back at the office, but the final benefit of this kind of on-the-ground work is a team of passionate, activated evangelists who will drive this project to success.

If you’re interested in Katahdin Fiber, you can express your support and become a Founder today: