As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment act of 2009, the federal government set aside money to be used to improve access to broadband Internet service in areas where such service has been hard to come by.
A coalition of Maine state officials, representatives of the University of Maine System and Maine telecommunications companies got together in early 2009 to determine how Maine might leverage some of the stimulus funds to enhance broadband access.
After some discussion, it became clear that the lack of a middle-mile network of high-capacity fiber optic cable - the equivalent of an Interstate highway in a road system - was a major obstacle to improving data transmission in many areas of the state. During those discussions, Biddeford Internet Corp. (doing business as a telephone and Internet service provider called Great Works Internet, or GWI) stepped forward to be the lead sponsor of a grant proposal to fund the construction of such a network.
The proposal was dubbed the Three Ring Binder because it featured three "rings" of fiber strung through Western, Northern and Downeast Maine. As part of the grant application, GWI said it would turn over responsibility for the network to a new, independent company, and that company would offer access to the network on an equal basis to all qualified users.
Maine Fiber Company was formed during the grant application process to take charge of the project should it win funding. On Dec. 17, 2009, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke came to Bangor to announce that the Three Ring Binder would receive a $25.4 million federal grant. Maine Fiber Co´s private investors are providing approximately $7 million more in financing to complete the project.