The Northern Forest Center and Community Concepts Finance Corporation (CCFC) are offering free installation and maintenance of public access Wi-Fi hotspots in up to 10 towns, schools, public libraries, or nonprofits in the Maine West region.  

Person using public wi-fi hotspot.“The Pandemic has shined a bright light on the lack of universal internet access across Maine, especially rural Maine,” said Mia Purcell, vice president of economic development and impact at Community Concepts. “As the state and communities work to expand high speed internet service to all Maine homes and businesses, Wi-Fi hotspots represent a near-term solution to providing free public internet access to those who don’t have it.”

Often located in downtown centers, public parks, libraries and schools, Wi-Fi Hotspots are intended to provide convenient free internet access for short periods of time – filling the gap for people who don’t otherwise have service, helping people save on cellular data, and generally making public spaces more appealing for young people and adults.

Waterville, Millinocket, Machias and Greenville, Maine, all have hotspots in their downtowns, allowing shoppers to save cellphone data use while and creating greater customer satisfaction and more foot traffic. Rumford has a Wi-Fi hotspot at its information center. Since the Pandemic began, schools and public libraries are allowed to expand their E-Rate-supported Wi-Fi networks for general public use outside their buildings and one way to do that is by adding a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Maine West Community Hotspot program is designed to support a network of WiFi access points in communities across the Maine West region. Funding for the program has been provided by the Northern Border Regional Commission, USDA Rural Development, and the Maine Community Foundation. Applicants should have a general location in mind that provides easy public access to their potential Wi-Fi service. Additional technical details can be worked out as part of the program. To be eligible, applicants much be:

•    Located in the Maine West region – towns in SAD44, SAD17, RSU10 and RSU56;

•    Willing to provide internet service to the hotspot through direct funding or private sponsorships; and

•    Able to provide proof of general liability insurance.

If you’re interested in expanding public internet access in your communit and fit these criteria, click on Maine West Wi-Fi Hotspot Application on Community Concept's website.