BANGOR, Maine — Increased access to high-speed, fiber-optic Internet could be in Bangor’s future, helping to bolster municipal revenue and make local businesses more competitive, according to city councilor Joe Baldacci.
Baldacci said the city council’s Business and Economic Development Committee will hear a presentation from Jeff Letourneau, executive director of Networkmaine, during Tuesday’s 5:15 p.m. meeting at City Hall. Networkmaine is a unit of the University of Maine System that provides high-speed Internet to the state’s research and education community.
The idea behind the presentation, Baldacci said, is to convince the committee to form an e-commerce task force that will develop a master plan for bringing fiber to the entire city.
“It’s really become an economic competitiveness issue, because other towns are doing it and other places are doing it,” he said.
According to Letourneau, there is fiber access in Bangor, but it’s primarily limited to large commercial zones, excluding areas on the outskirts of the city and even densely populated residential areas.
“Nobody is making investments outside of these cherry-picked sections of town,” he said.
Fiber-optic infrastructure is critical to helping businesses in Bangor compete and will play a key role in attracting new technology-based businesses to town, according to Baldacci.
“Anything they can do quicker, helps them do more business,” he said.
According to material provided the committee by Letourneau, for every 1,000 homes with accessible fiber-based broadband, community revenues increase by $500,000, 25 new jobs are created, up to $1.1 million in secondary job impact is created and assessed property values are increased by $2.5 million.
Baldacci said there are state funds available to pay for the creation of a master plan, but a public-private partnership will likely be needed to pay for the long-term infrastructure improvements.
That partnership would look for investments from federal, state, local and private resources to cover the expense, he said.
“Letourneau’s feeling is that we should have a master plan for the whole city and then work one step at a time, toward fulfilling it,” Baldacci said.
If the committee approves creation of the task force, it would ask city council chairman Nelson Durgin to appoint members based on the committee’s recommendation, according to Baldacci, who said he wants representation from the University of Maine, the city, private business and the chamber of commerce.
Fiber-optic differs from conventional copper and cable lines in that it relies on the transmission of light impulses along a glass or plastic wire to transmit information faster and over greater distances.
That means they can provide the same upload and download speeds, also known as symmetrical service, which makes users more active and likely to contribute as opposed to passive consumption, Letourneau said.
Bangor isn’t the only community looking for better broadband access. Dover-Foxcroft lawmaker Rep. Norman Higgins recently submitted bills in the Legislature seeking to improve Piscataquis County’s access to the Three-Ring Binder, which provides high-speed Internet to rural Maine.
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