BELFAST — Great Works Internet is close to securing funding for its planned broadband expansion in Belfast and hopes to announce soon when it will start breaking ground on the project.

The Biddeford-based company hopes to lay fiber-optic cable throughout the city in phases, President Kerem Durdag told The Republican Journal Nov. 29. It is currently attempting to secure funding for the first phase. The company is not seeking state or federal funds, but rather is securing private financing partners to fund the project.

The company is still finalizing agreements with its financing partners, so it has not yet announced where phase one will take place and how much it will cost, Durdag said. “There is a lot of hard work that has been done and a lot of hard work that still needs to be done,” he said.

He is confident that the company will be able to build out the multimillion-dollar project in phases over the next few years, despite the pandemic. But he is keeping a close eye on the current supply-chain restrictions and workforce challenges. There are some things the company has no control over, but it will remain transparent with partners, including municipalities, regarding how the project is progressing.

“So, I feel confident, but we also need to be aware that there are certain things that are much dependent on nationwide supply-chain considerations rather than regional,” he said.

The Certified B Corporation is focused on internet equity and the company views access to the internet as a right for all people, he said. It is the only Certified B Corporation telecommunications carrier in the country.

“We are deeply, deeply rooted into the communities in the state of Maine and our position on digital inclusion equity is extremely well known,” Durdag said. “We believe that the internet is a human right for everybody. We believe in universal access and affordability and inclusion.”

The 26-year-old company serves the entire state and started building out fiber-optic lines 10 years ago, he said. It has also expanded into Vermont. It designs, builds, operates and provides services for municipal broadband networks. It also builds its own networks. The company believes in data privacy, open access and net neutrality, according to Durdag.

In 2009 the company collaborated with private businesses and public institutions to fund the Three Ring Binder plan, according to its website. The Three Ring Binder plan is an 1,100-mile fiber-optic network completed in 2012 that brought high-speed internet to several rural regions of the state. It covers southern, central, eastern and northern Maine through a route that looks like three rings on a map.

Durdag said it usually takes 12 to 14 months before service is available after financing agreements are signed, so this phase of the Belfast project probably will not be completed until sometime in 2023. It is a complicated effort that involves multiple parties, so it is taking a while to get the pieces together, he said, but he thinks it is coming together “nicely” so far.

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