PROJECT BACKGROUND:

In order to spur economic development, including job creation and investment, a top priority for the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council board of directors (“growth council”) and the Sanford City Council since 2012 has been to deploy high-speed fiber optics to the key employers in the municipality – community anchor institutions like schools, medical facilities, manufacturers, and city government – and the critical commercial and industrial areas within the City of Sanford, including the industrial parks and the historic mill yard.

Following four years of stakeholder meetings, community broadband plan development, selection of a private sector network operator, and funding searches and applications, a federal grant award was received in late 2016 from the US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA), and matched by the City of Sanford, to construct SanfordNet Fiber, a 45-mile municipally-owned high-speed fiber optic network.

Using federal procurement guidelines, a competitive bid process was established to attract vendors to build SanfordNet Fiber. A construction company was selected in mid-2018. It is now building the largest municipal network in Maine, the first major loop connecting York County to the Three Ring Binder (a middle mile project that strung 1100 miles of fiber through the rest of the state and was completed in 2012). Construction of the SanfordNet Fiber network began in July 2018 and is expected to conclude in the second quarter of 2019.

FAQS

Some of the frequently asked questions about the Sanford project are answered below.

 

WHO IS RUNNING THIS PROJECT?

The project was originally conceived, shepherded and developed by the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council, a 501(c)(6) nonprofit corporation, established in 2009 as the key economic development organization in Central York County. The City of Sanford, as one of the growth council’s co-founders, has contracts with Eustis Cable Enterprises, a private fiber optics installation company, to construct SanfordNet Fiber, and with Great Works Internet (GWI), a private internet service provider, to operate SanfordNet Fiber; the City, with Tilson Technology Company as its contracted Architect & Engineer, manages all aspects of the project.

Like the growth council, SanfordNet Fiber is a public-private partnership. The business model being implemented is municipally-led, and utilizes federal and municipal funding for infrastructure that is municipally-owned. It also leverages the strengths and expertise of private, for-profit business partners to build and operate the network. The growth council believes this model supports both public and private sectors and enhances economic development.

 

WHO IS BUILDING THE SANFORD BROADBAND NETWORK?

Eustis Cable Enterprises of Brookfield, Vermont, is the private sector company selected to construct the 45-mile fiber optic network, under contract with the City of Sanford. Norm Gauthier is the Project Manager for Eustis Cable and is handling the day-to-day construction activities, including installing equipment, stringing fiber to the utility poles and connecting fiber to the almost 90 buildings of the community anchor institutions. These include companies in the industrial parks and historic mill yard, as well as health care, city and school facilities.

 

WHO IS OPERATING SANFORDNET FIBER?

Once construction is completed in 2019, GWI of Biddeford, Maine, is the private sector company contracting with the City of Sanford to operate and service the network. GWI’s CEO Fletcher Kittredge and COO Kerem Durdag are managing this project.

 

WHO WILL OWN THE FIBER ASSETS ONCE THE CONSTRUCTION PROJECT IS COMPLETED?

The City of Sanford will own the fiber network and lease it to GWI.

 

WHAT IS THE SYSTEM DESIGN AND WHY?

The system is designed as an Open Access Non-Discriminatory Fiber Optic Network.  There is no exclusivity to the Network, and providers other than GWI can use the network on non-discriminatory terms. Both dark fiber and lit services will be available as wholesale. This allows for a number of private sector business models to provide services on the Network and offer a multitude of broadband solutions, spawning competitive pricing and market responsiveness to customers.

 

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO BUILD THE NETWORK?

Capital costs, and other significant items like “make ready” (moving existing lines so municipal space is open on utility poles) for SanfordNet Fiber are projected to be approximately $2.3 million

 

HOW WILL IT BE PAID FOR?

The EDA awarded the broadband infrastructure project $769,209. This amount is being matched by the City of Sanford using proceeds from the sale of properties like Emery School and others. The final $761,582 of the project cost will be contributed by the downtown tax increment financing (TIF) revenue account.

 

I HEARD THE SYSTEM WILL BE FUNDED BY MUNICIPAL TIF MONEY – IS THAT TRUE?

Yes, see above. Less than a third of the project will be covered by the downtown TIF.

 

HOW DO I KNOW MY TAX BILL WON'T GO UP BECAUSE OF THIS?

Leveraged funding is being utilized (see above), and the substantial amounts currently being spent by the City and Schools on Internet-associated leases and connections won't be needed with the new network. This will essentially free up those dollars, which are already part of the City and School's combined balance sheet, to offset the portion of construction funded by taxation.

 

WHEN WILL THE SYSTEM BE BUILT (START/FINISH)?

The project has experienced delays due to the process for securing leveraged federal funding (2016) and the accompanying requirement to utilize mandatory procurement protocols (2017), along with significant time allowances for existing utility pole owners to make their poles ready (2018). However, project construction has finally begun in 2018 and network construction is expected to be completed in 2019.

 

ARE THE STREETS GOING TO BE DUG UP TO ACCOMMODATE THE NETWORK?

The System has been designed to use pole attachment agreements as the primary method of stringing the 45-mile fiber network. No laying of underground cables is anticipated as part of the broadband construction project. The fiber will be attached to existing utility poles in the same manner as electrical, phone, and cable systems in the space already authorized for municipalities.

 

WILL THE NETWORK BE JUST FOR COMMERCIAL AND MUNICIPAL USE, OR CAN RESIDENTIAL USERS BE INCLUDED?

The network is being constructed initially for economic development purposes (see Project Background), but the operator is providing a foundation on which to expand and reach residential neighborhoods and additional businesses in the future. Because the network is available to a host of internet service providers, it is anticipated that a variety of services will be offered at levels ranging from commercial to residential.

In 2018, Sanford was selected by the Post Road Foundation, a Harvard-affiliated research group, to be one of five communities nationwide that are now part of a study to determine alternative approaches to raising funds to support the long-term investment required for community-wide fiber-to-the-premise connectivity.

 

WHERE WILL THE FIBER BE STRUNG?

 

HOW CAN I SIGN UP TO TAKE PART?

In addition to connecting community anchor institutions, GWI intends to provide high speed residential service to residents along the network route where there is sufficient density and demand. For answers to any questions regarding sign-up, please contact GWI’s Donna Casale Durkin at ddurkin@gwi.net or (207) 602-1310. In preparation for SanfordNet Fiber availability in 2019, GWI will actively solicit residential customers along the network route.

 

CAN OTHER COMMUNITIES JOIN SANFORDNET FIBER?

Yes, the network can accommodate additional municipal partners along the proposed routes, such as Wells, Kennebunk and Alfred.  Connecting communities may lease dark fiber by the strand-mile, or purchase lit services as provided by GWI

 

MY INTERNET IS JUST FINE. WHY MESS WITH A GOOD THING?

SanfordNet Fiber is offering an ultra-high-speed (10GB/sec, up to 100 GB/sec symmetric), open-access, non-discriminatory system that will promote competition among internet service providers. Businesses and residents will continue to choose their service provider but will benefit from increased competition and offerings.

 

WHY DOES THE CITY NEED ITS OWN NETWORK? THERE ARE ALREADY BROADBAND PROVIDERS IN SANFORD.

The City believes that in today’s global economy, owning infrastructure assets, like roads and fiber optics, is in the public interest, and securing multiple private sector internet service providers and fostering competition for speed, bandwidth, pricing and dependability, affords a competitive advantage to existing companies and residents, as well as to those who are not here yet but will be attracted to Sanford in the future.  Existing and new providers will have equal access to lease space on SanfordNet Fiber to provide their products and services to Sanford companies and residents. Paltry speeds of 25MB download and 3MB upload is the “broadband” standard in Maine and the US today. This widespread lack of high speed connectivity helps explain why Maine ranked 49th out of 50 states for broadband speed in a recent study. Sanford in 2019 is ready to step in with a significant upgrade in speed and bandwidth that is expected to enhance economic development and raise the bar for the rest of Maine.

 

I HEARD ATLANTIC BROADBAND IS MAKING THEIR SYSTEM FASTER – WOULDN'T IT BE EASIER AND CHEAPER TO JUST USE THEIR SYSTEM?

No existing ISPs in Sanford, including Atlantic Broadband, currently provide open-access, non-discriminatory, ultra-high-speed, fiber-to-the-premises internet broadband solutions. As with any major consumer expense, we would recommend comparing products, services and prices, and making the best choice for your company or family.

 

Contact Us

Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council
917 Main Street, Suite D
Sanford, ME 04073

Phone: 207.324.9155
Email: info@sanfordgrowth.com
Fax: 207.608.4114

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