PORTLAND, Maine — OTT Communications has leased space on an open fiber-optic data network to serve pulp and tissue mills in Baileyville and wild blueberry producer Jasper Wyman & Son with speeds about 1,000 times the average U.S. I nternet connection.

Trevor Jones, OTT’s marketing and product development director, said in a telephone interview that the lease of fiber on that part of the statewide network “is an important step toward serving much more of that rural part of the state.”

For the time being, he said, that’s mostly for business customers close to the northern loop of the open fiber network, called the Three Ring Binder. That northern loop runs through 77 communities in Aroostook, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Hancock and Washington counties.

Dan Sullivan, the director of IT for Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue mills, said in a news release he hopes the deal will lead to other businesses getting access to faster connections.

Sullivan said it has become increasingly important for employees of the mill to be able to monitor the facility around the clock and remotely, an issue he previously has brought up to the state agency in charge of encouraging broadband expansions.

“It is essential to our business survival for our combined 400 employees to have these same connections that we now enjoy in the mills at their homes,” Sullivan said, adding that he hopes OTT’s lease of Three Ring Binder fiber will lead to the expansion of faster service for other business and residential customers in the area.

Jeff McCarthy, a vice president at Maine Fiber Co., which owns and operates Three Ring Binder, said the new lease is a sign the network paid for with federal stimulus funds and private investment “is doing what we hoped it would,” but there’s still a ways to go to make those speedy connections more abundant.

“It’s part of the solution but not all of the solution for these residential areas that are underserved or don’t have competition,” McCarthy said.

The deal with OTT introduces a new competitor for high-speed service along the Three Ring Binder’s northern loop, which runs from Bucksport along the coast to destinations Down East, up through Aroostook County to Fort Kent and Madawaska and back down to the Bangor area through Millinocket.

The open fiber network has supported expansions of broadband service in other areas of the state as well, such as a plan the York County city of Sanford announced last fall to build a 32-mile extension loop off that network.

Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.