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The Coastal Packet

The longtime national journal, Progressive Review, has moved its headquarters from Washington DC to Freeport, Maine, where its editor, Sam Smith, has long ties. This is a local edition dealing with Maine news and progressive politics.

8/5/09

Wednesday Aug 5

FAIR POINT CONT'D

DSL Reports
- We've well-documented how Fairpoint Communications has all-but imploded from the acquisition of Verizon's Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont DSL networks. The carrier has skirted close to bankruptcy, faces state investigations for incompetence, and is now looking at a possible delisting by the NYSE. In recent months, users tell us the carrier has barely been able to answer the phone, much less deal with massive work order backlogs.

The company has been busy trying to avoid paying competitors compensation for disrupted service. So it's interesting the company still has the cash on hand to lobby (scare) Maine away from other organizations in the running for Federal broadband stimulus funds. According to the Bangor Daily News, Fairpoint lobbyists are upset because the University of Maine is also in the running to get funding, something that's desperately needed after Verizon left a significant portion of the state with rusted DSL infrastructure.

After neglecting the state for years, Verizon accountants used a Reverse Morris Trust to offload the unwanted network to Fairpoint, netting hundreds of millions in tax writeoffs for Verizon. Fairpoint in turn acquired a mountain of Verizon debt they've been struggling with ever since. Because of the debt, state broadband expansion plans may not be in the cards for Fairpoint without federal funds. In order to get those funds, Fairpoint is busy trying to scare the state away from other possible suitors: "The fact is, we are competing with the University of Maine," said Severin Beliveau, an Augusta attorney representing FairPoint. "I am concerned at what the university is proposing here, because it is receiving a form of subsidy, no, they are in fact receiving a subsidy from taxpayers, in competing with the private sector."

Even if the company was competing directly with UMS, at least Maine residents could be certain the University will even exist a year from now. But as it stands, Fairpoint isn't competing with the University of Maine. They're competing with a public private partnership of which the University is only a member. Applications for Federal funds are open to public entities and private companies. Given recent history, giving taxpayer dollars to somebody other than the regional dysfunctional incumbent might not be the worst idea in the world.

CANADIAN BORDER CROSSINGS DOWN

Victoria Star, CA - Officials are hesitant to place the blame on one specific reason, but both American and Canadian border officials are in agreement that the numbers of people traveling between Canada and the United States on the Maine-New Brunswick border are dropping.

Monthly statistics comparing 2008 to 2009 border visits shows the number of visitors entering Canada significantly dropped on a year-to-year basis, with the exception of the St. Leonard crossing.

St. Leonard's CBSA port had 17, 470 people cross the border in May 2008. This number grew by 4,024 to a total of 21,494 in May 2009.

But other border parts experienced sizable drops. In May 2008 Grand Falls welcomed 31, 357 people, but in May 2009 the activity dropped to 15,438, more than a 50 per cent decrease.

Andover's port saw 28,346 visitors in May 2008 and 23,843 visits in May 2009. The small port of River de Chute went from 520 visits to 486 over the same time period.

In Carleton County, Centreville numbers dropped from 15,034 to 11, 267 visits, while the major border crossings at Woodstock went from 54,313 visits to 38,382. Forest City had 498 people cross through the border in May 2008. In May 2009 the number of people entering dropped to 370 people.

United States Customs and Border Protection officials were asked for similar statistics on their Maine border ports, but would not provide the data.

Instead Theodore Woo, OFO Office of Public Affairs Liaison, merely stated the traffic was down at American ports.

As of June 1, 2009, according to the new Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative rules, Canadian citizens were required to present a NEXUS card, passport or an enhanced driver's license when crossing the U.S. border.

Children under 15 years old only require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate. The part that could hurt the local economy, however, is the requirement that American citizens must also have a passport to re-enter the U.S. after a visit to Canada. . .

Businesses that depend on cross-border traffic are worried that fewer travelers will hurt the border economy. Several local retailers and event organizers say the new law in June is already delivering a negative impact, but others say it's too soon to tell.

Some tourist destinations are already feeling the impact. At Potato World in Florenceville-Bristol, one of the area's biggest tourist attractions, visits from Americans have decreased dramatically.

"We're noticing a huge decrease," said Potato World manager Mardi Thornton. "We can tell by the money coming through the till."

"We're not seeing the U.S. visitation at all and it's the passports, I'm quite sure," she added.

"We've had maybe a dozen through since we opened and by now we would usually have had 100.". . .

THE MAINE STREAM

Bangor Daily News - A moose on the loose in the Knox Mill Center generated excitement [in Camden] before it was sedated, transported and set free that afternoon in the Ruffingham Meadow State Game Management Area in Searsmont. The 500-pound cow moose apparently wandered into the building about 8:30 a.m. through an open back door used by Sage Market. Its lumbering bulk was a shock to staff and residents of the mixed-use complex on the Megunticook River formerly used by credit card company MBNA. "You can't make this stuff up," said Lt. Randy Gagne of the Camden Police Department. "I've chased moose all over town, but I've never had one go into a building. You don't see that every day." . . . When the moose was in the building, it seemed a little panicky, witnesses said, but didn't hurt anyone or get hurt itself. ". . . At about noon Connolly and biologist Keel Kemper jabbed the animal with two doses of tranquilizer. Once the moose was sedated, the biologists had help from the Police Department and complex staff to move it outside on a tarp. The moose was loaded onto the back of a pickup truck with a backhoe, said Gagne.

Village Soup (with good photos) - Two lobster boats were discovered under water and a third nearly sank early Wednesday morning in Owls Head Harbor following a vandalism spree that one owner said he suspects is due to a dispute over lobsters. The vandalism was discovered at about 5 a.m. Wednesday. Within an hour, fishermen, family members and interested onlookers were on the wharves talking about the vandalism and the increased number of such disputes. . . The lobsterboats that were vandalized are owned by Donald McMahan Jr., his uncle Richard McMahan, and Keith Simmons, all of Owls Head. Donald McMahan said he has suspicions of who may be involved but has no evidence and would not want to publicly speculate. He said he has had no disputes with anyone recently but suspects the incident is due to territorial issues over lobster fishing. . . Donald McMahan said he had not fished for two to three years after suffering a series of four strokes and an aneurysm. Most recently, he spent the past month setting traps to return to the work he had done all his life. He said he had no insurance on his 22-year-old, 35-foot Novi boat.

Elegant headline of the day: "Wiscasset police seek prolific burglar" - Brunswick Times Record

Press Herald A zoning rule that's intended to combat drunken rowdiness in the Old Port has caused the city to shut down a monthly reading of Shakespeare. Henceforth, Acorn Productions' Shakespeare Ensemble shall be banished from the Wine Bar & Restaurant on Wharf Street. The bar does not have an entertainment license and cannot get one because a bar next door already has one. A city ordinance prohibits any bar from having an entertainment license if another bar within 100 feet has one. Mike Levine, artistic director of Acorn Productions, . . . said the ensemble might have no choice but to leave the city. "You would think it was something you should be celebrating, rather than trying to contain," he said.

What can happen to you if you leave Maine: Charles Bryant, a talented architect in Maine, was killed and scalped by Indians near Corpus Christi in 1850. His was a lonely death far from his native home. Bryant, an architect in Bangor, Maine, designed some of that city's most famous buildings. In 1837, he became involved as a leader in a rebellion in Canada against British power. He was captured and sentenced to be hanged. The night before the execution, friends helped him to escape from prison and he slipped back across the border into the U.S. The British authorities posted a reward for him, dead or alive. He decided he needed a change of scenery so he sailed for Galveston with his oldest son. They arrived in 1839. . . In 1848, he joined the Texas Rangers. . . As mustering officer for the Rangers, he was called to Austin in January, 1850. Near Wood's Ranch on the Chocolate Bayou, above old St. Mary's, Bryant was killed by a band of Lipan Apaches. As people from the ranch watched - too few to help - the Indians scalped Bryant. - The Caller


Carol McCracken, Munjoy Hill News - One of the more impressive sailboats to enter Portland Harbor this summer is the schooner Virginia. Last week this 126 ft. yacht arrived at Portland Yacht Services where it intends to remain - running its cruises from their docks. According to deckhand Nate Killops, (Portland, Oregon,) the yacht runs "team-building" programs for young people. . . For adults, there is a guest crew program.

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