It’s early morning as Field Technician Thomas Nelligan boards the deck of a small car ferry in his Spectrum uniform to cross Penobscot Bay. From the cabin he can see porpoise and sailboats in the distance, hear seagulls; sunshine glints off the water to the horizon line.
For an hour and 15 minutes, Nelligan makes his way to the remote island of North Haven off the midcoast of Maine where he helps Spectrum service the island community with high-speed broadband.
"Every day brings a unique challenge, and each task requires a different thought process, both mentally and physically,” said Nelligan, a 36-year veteran of the cable industry. “No two jobs are ever the same.”
When his crossing is complete, Nelligan drives off the ferry or heads to the Spectrum van that stays on the island, where he is sometimes greeted by residents, or by a note tacked under the windshield wiper from an eager customer. There, he sets off to work.
Servicing the Maine Islands and hard to reach coastal areas with high-speed broadband requires precision, time and dedicated resources by Techs like Nelligan — but it’s made a world of difference to the hearty souls who make places like North Haven their home.
Spectrum’s $82 million network investment across Maine is expected to be profound once completed. On North Haven, high-speed broadband has helped the fishing industry thrive, supports remote work year-round for more residents than ever, and provides a connection to the world in a way the community wasn’t always accustomed to.
High-Speed Broadband Delivered Across the Ocean Floor
North Haven, dotted with rocky shores and a robust fishing industry, is less than eight miles long and three miles wide. Only three ferries run there a day from Rockland, and the last one returns at 3:45 p.m.
“I think the charm of North Haven is that it’s a little harder to get to,” said Jacqueline Curtis, Executive Director of the North Haven Historical Society. “What makes it really special, is its natural beauty.”
Navigating the island’s rugged terrain and unique geography is no small task for the team, which visits at least three days a week. The island is connected to Spectrum’s network by a special subaquatic fiber optic cable, approximately 10-12 miles in length. The cable is steel lined for protection and is buried deep to stay clear of potential disruption.
“We bury it about 3-5 feet below the subfloor of the ocean itself, to protect it from underwater activity that’s going on, whether that be buoys and diving, anchors or dredging,” said Jason Crosby, Director of Field Operations in Maine. “We need to keep the line protected deep underneath the seafloor, itself.”
The island's population soars in the summer to more than 1,000 residents, but is around 400 during colder months. Still, serving both year-round and seasonal residents requires dedication and adaptability.
A Strong Network Connection Supports Local Business on North Haven
Local small business owners provide a real benefit to North Haven’s local and regional economy, and depend on a reliable broadband connection.
Adam Campbell, a commercial lobsterman and owner of North Haven Oyster Company, operates a small oyster farm that lies on a tidal inlet where salt and freshwater meet, to “create a thriving environment for the Maine oysters to grow,” his website reads.
“It’s super important, to be connected,” said Campbell. “We need to be in touch with our customers. We do a lot of ecotourism on our website these days, and that’s how we make a living.”
Others in the fishing industry explain how high-speed broadband has fostered progress — most notably allowing fishermen to participate in regional industry meetings through video calls, bringing real voices to the table to solve complex problems.
“Being able to connect across the coast, across the islands, across these rural communities, it’s crucial,” said Ben Martens, Executive Director of the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association.
“That’s where we are right now. It’s fishermen working together to connect, to communicate, to share data and information. It’s been hard to do, historically. Now we’re able to.”
Connection to the Island’s Roots
At the Historical Society, Curtis is working to provide patrons with streaming exhibits and is starting to digitize the island’s records. Connection speeds are a major upgrade from the past when it would take 24 hours to upload a single video.
“Like any small-town community we are here for each other. We support each other,” said Curtis. “Now with the accessibility of the internet we are able to find out information for families a lot quicker with genealogy sites and access to things we didn’t have before.”
Rick Lattimer, North Haven’s Town Administrator, sees reliable connection as a difference-maker for town employees and a growing segment of residents who are working remotely. There is the writer who fell in love with a lobsterman and moved to the island full-time from New York City, for example.
“I really didn’t feel comfortable moving to a super rural environment unless I could continue my career and continue to stay connected to people,” said Laura Serino, a senior manager at Content Postscript, and wife of a Maine lobsterman. “Staying connected was really important to me.”
Going the Distance to Serve Customers
Serving North Haven is a snapshot of the lengths Spectrum goes to empower connection. Charter serves more than 466,000 customers in 300-plus communities in Maine and continues to identify, research, and invest in technology and infrastructure across the state. For Technicians like Nelligan and his colleagues — supporting islands like North Haven is worth going the extra mile.
“People are very happy to be able to go to an island in the ocean off Maine and have the same quality internet service they have at home,” said Nelligan. “They’re spending more time here than ever and it’s a game-changer for our customers to have high-quality internet.”
Learn more about Spectrum’s Broadband Expansion plans.