Maine City Announces Public/Private Partnership to Deploy Fiber Network

  • GWI
SOUTH PORTLAND, ME — The city of South Portland announced an innovative public/private partnership to deploy a fiber-optic, “gigabit-per-second” Internet network that will serve both business and residential customers within the city.

Three-phase Project, Four Miles of Fiber
Partnering with Internet provider GWI, the winning bidder in response to a Request For Proposal (RFP) that the city issued, the city will initiate a three-phase project that will bring approximately four miles of optical fiber, and ultra high-speed Internet service, to a significant portion of the city. The first phase will connect Maine’s “3-Ring Binder” to the Mill Creek, Knightville Ocean Avenue, Highland Avenue and Evans Avenue corridors; the second phase will connect the James Baka Drive, Western Avenue, Westbrook Street and Wescott Road corridors; and a third phase will expand the network even farther, as funding becomes available.

“This is a visionary step forward for the City of South Portland,” said Gerard “Jerry” Jalbert, South Portland’s mayor. “It doesn’t take a wizard to see that improving Internet infrastructure is critical to the economic future of our country. Our city already has outstanding educational and business resources, but moving ahead confidently like this will help secure high educational aspirations, quality of life and economic security for future generations of South Portland residents.”

South Portland’s project is several times larger than what the town of Rockport announced last month, which U.S. Senator Angus King hailed as a “national model.” Rockport’s initiative drew national attention to Maine’s poor Internet service, with one commentator comparing the state to “some developing nation”. South Portland’s announcement accelerates Maine’s reputation as a state in which municipalities find innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to achieve faster Internet speeds.

“Although some of the recent publicity was uncomfortable to absorb, it did serve the purpose of giving Maine a wake-up call,” said Fletcher Kittredge, CEO of GWI. “And one of the best thing Maine has going for it is cities and town that are very resourceful. They figure out a way.”

High-speed Internet Now a Vital Public Utility
“Reliable, high-speed Internet service is no different than electricity or water. It’s a vital public utility that’s necessary to succeed in a globally competitive economy,” said U.S. Senator Angus King. “Today, South Portland is giving its citizens a leg up in that competition by creating a cutting-edge broad infrastructure network that will open the doors to greater economic and educational opportunities.”

Thirty countries have faster Internet speeds than the U.S., and a recent study ranked Maine 49th out of 50 states for Internet access and quality. The new network in South Portland will be a “gigabit per second” network, meaning it can transmit 1,000 megabits of data per second. It is also “symmetrical,” meaning a customer can upload data to the Internet just as fast as downloading. (In Maine, it is common for download speeds to be 15 megabits per second or less, and for upload speeds to be 1 megabit per second or less.)

South Portland’s project is in harmony with its Comprehensive Plan. The city has signed a contract with GWI for $150,000 that will secure connection of city facilities, with a long-term lease. Although GWI will own the network, it is an “open network,” meaning other Internet providers will have fair access to the fiber. GWI will share a portion of revenues it obtains from use of the network with the city, and GWI will invest $20,000 to connect to its own network. According to the agreement, GWI has a six-month deadline to complete Phase I of the contract.

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