TDS revs fiber engine in Maine with plan to cover three dozen towns

TDS Telecom outlined plans to cover more than 20,000 new locations in Maine with fiber, as part of a broader goal to blanket 60% of its footprint with the technology by 2026.

Work in the state is set to begin this year and will cover 36 new communities. These will include Athens, Bigelow Township, Cambridge, Embden, Freeman, Harmony, Kingfield, Lexington Township, Madrid, New Portland, Palmyra, Ripley, Salem and Warren, among others. Kit Beyer, Director of External Affairs and Communications for TDS, told Fierce the rollouts will primarily use aerial infrastructure.

All 21,000 locations that are part of the freshly announced expansion will have access to 2-gig broadband service, as well as TV and phone products. The builds add to a previously announced project to cover 1,500 addresses in Hampden.

“From telework and remote learning to small business operations, the pandemic has shown how crucial a high-speed internet network is to a community,” Andrew Petersen, TDS Telecom SVP of Corporate Affairs said in a statement. “We’re looking forward to building an internet network that will serve Maine residents for many years to come.”

It is not the only one targeting fiber expansion in New England. Consolidated Communications is aiming to cover 450,000 locations in Maine with fiber by 2025 and earlier this month announced it won funding to help it build to 22,000 rural locations in the areas of Blue Hill Peninsula, Rangeley and Farmington.

TDS Telecom's work in Maine comes as it pushes to achieve a goal of delivering fiber to more than 900,000 locations over the next several years. As of the end of 2021, the operator covered around 400,000 with fiber.

During an earnings call last month, TDS Telecom CEO James Butman said it is now aiming to triple its total number of fiber service addresses to 1.2 million over the next five years “with aspirations of increasing that target as we identify new opportunities.”

He added it feels a “sense of urgency” to cover as many homes as possible as quickly as it can to head off potential competitors. “We have an active pipeline of identified markets and continue to plant flags in the most attractive new markets that will expand our footprint even further,” he stated.

Already this year TDS has announced a number of fiber projects across its footprint. Just prior to the Maine news, it outlined plans to cover 18,000 locations in Waukesha County, Wisconsin. In February, it said it would cover an additional 15,000 locations in the Green Bay area of Wisconsin and 32,000 locations across a handful of communities in Idaho.