City of Sanford Building Largest Municipal Fiber Network in Maine


September 28, 2015

Groundbreaking project is first major new “ring” to sprout from touted 3-Ring Binder

The City of Sanford has announced plans to build a 32-mile municipal broadband network with optical fiber, a system eight times as large as the next largest municipal network in Maine.

Sanford’s network will be capable of Internet upload and download speeds as fast as 10 gigabits-per-second. While driven by the need to stimulate and enhance commerce, the network will be mixed-use, available to businesses, residents and government and non-profit entities, and will position the city very favorably in ongoing efforts to attract new enterprises and jobs to the region. Sanford will work with two vendors: GWI, a Maine-owned Internet services provider, and NextGen Telecom Services Group, a fiber optic network contractor based in Rochester, New Hampshire. GWI and NextGen were partners in a competitive bid process, and they expect construction to begin as early as Spring of 2016.

The proposed route of Sanford's municipal fiber network.The project is also the first major new fiber loop to be built to significantly extend the much-heralded 3-Ring Binder. The 3-Ring Binder in its original form did not serve York County. It is an open access fiber network intended to connect rural, disadvantaged, un-served and under-served communities to an ultra-modern communications network.

“Utilizing the talented staff at Portland-based Tilson Technology Company for guidance, we went through a very exhaustive RFP process, approaching 22 vendors,” said Jim Nimon, Executive Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council. “With our goal to establish a public/private partnership, we learned a lot about various models, and left no stone unturned finding the best solution for the City of Sanford. This move will put Sanford on the map.”

The city joins a small but growing cadre of municipalities in Maine that have recognized how important ultra-fast Internet will be to the future of Maine’s economy. In just the last year, Rockport, South Portland and Islesboro have started to build their own fiber networks, and several other municipalities including Ellsworth, Old Town and Orono have announced that they will do the same. Sanford is the largest of these projects. Sanford’s mayor, Tom Cote, said bringing more jobs to the Sanford/Springvale area is the most important priority for the Growth Council board and the city council.

“The sheer size and scope of this undertaking is impressive, and that’s what I love about it,” Cote said. “This is a bold move that will make Sanford a technological standout in the Northeast, and very attractive as a place to start, modernize or move a business. This is a truly visionary step, and absolutely necessary to boost economic growth.”

City Manager Steve Buck said the network can accommodate additional municipal partners along the proposed routes, such as Wells, Kennebunk and Alfred. He said Sanford insisted that GWI and NextGen build an “open access” network, meaning that once it’s in place, providers other than GWI can use the infrastructure for an appropriate fee.

“That encourages future competition in the delivery of Internet services. We felt that was a key stipulation that will benefit Internet customers in this community for many decades,” Buck said.

The mayor, Nimon and Buck announced plans for the municipal network during “Digital New England,” a regional conference held in Portland today by Next Century Cities and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. Upon learning of Sanford’s project, Next Century Cities invited the city to become one of its almost 120 members nationwide.

U.S. Senator Angus King, Jr., who took part in a keynote conversation at Digital New England, praised Sanford's announcement. "I applaud Sanford for taking the bold and visionary step of building an ultra-fast, globally-competitive, open-access broadband network," Senator King said. "Broadband Internet is the foundation for economic innovation and development in the 21st century, and this public-private partnership will both help cultivate and further position the city for success in the years and decades to come."

About Sanford, Maine

Sanford and its village of Springvale make up Maine’s seventh-largest community and in 2013 became its newest city. Situated geographically in the heart of York County, Sanford is a Certified Business Friendly community and is the core service center for surrounding towns that, in addition to the City of Sanford, comprise a distinct economic and demographic area known as the Sanford Region.

About GWI

GWI is Maine owned and operated, and an advocate for the expansion of high speed Internet access in the state. In 2014, in response to national publicity about the poor standing of Maine’s Internet speeds and overall quality, the company published a white paper entitled, “10 Recommendations for Improving Maine’s Inferior Broadband Standing.” It is available at this link: http://bit.ly/1yWx8Y2.

About NextGen Telecom Services Group

NextGen Telecom Services Group, Inc. is a fiber optic network infrastructure contractor that provides field engineering, construction, splicing and restoration services. The company has recently completed 3,300 of “middle mile” and “last mile” construction in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and upstate New York. For more information, visit www.ngengroup.com.

About Next Century Cities

Next Century Cities is a national, nonprofit organization striving to ensure that all Americans have access to fast, affordable and reliable Internet.

For more information about this project, contact Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council: phone 207-608-4176 or email info@sanfordgrowth.com.