GWI accuses Maine Fiber Co. of misusing federal funds for statewide network

Maine-based GWI has filed a lawsuit alleging that Maine Fiber Co., the operator of the state's Three Ring Binder middle mile network, did not use federal broadband stimulus properly to address rural broadband needs.

The Three Ring Binder network, which extends from Aroostook County to Boston, was completed in September 2012 with the aid of $25.6 million in federal broadband stimulus grants.

According to a report in The Bangor Daily News, Fletcher Kittredge, CEO of GWI, said during a news conference that Maine Fiber Co. did not fulfill its promise to use the funds to expand the availability of broadband access in rural Maine.

He added that the lawsuit filed in Maine Superior Court was "the last and worst option" to settle the issues with the company, but neither side could come to an agreement. The suit also names CEO Dwight Allison and investor Robert Monks Jr. as defendants.

One of the key issues that Kitteridge said with how Maine Fiber Co. carried out the project is its decision to extend the network into Boston.

"The purpose of the Three Ring Binder project is to help Maine people. No part of the project's focus was intended to benefit financial firms in New York City to the detriment of Maine people," Kittredge said. "Certainly it was not part of GWI's application to the federal government, but that is what I believe happened."

Allison dismissed GWI's claims and was "surprised" to hear about the lawsuit.

"We went where we were supposed to go," he said. "We covered 1,100 miles of fiber across the state of Maine, so to say we did not go to rural communities is simply inaccurate."

Maine Fiber Co. said it funded the Boston expansion through a mix of private funds and others that were left over after the Maine part of the Three Ring Binger was completed.

Allison told the Bangor Daily News that it got federal approval to use some of the remaining funds to extend the network to Boston to serve business and other wholesale customers that needed a connection into the city.

For more:
- Bangor Daily News has this article

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