ORONO, Maine — As leaders in Orono and Old Town prepare to bring high-speed internet to their communities, they are asking residents and business owners for input on where the lines should be located.
“The goal of these surveys is to determine both the interest in this project and where the internet infrastructure would need to be established,” a post about the two surveys on the Orono website states.
Orono and Old Town are partnering with the University of Maine to connect to the state’s open 1,100-mile fiber-optic cable infrastructure project known as the Three Ring Binder.
Access to the Three Ring Binder would “bring 1,000 [megabit per] second ultra-high-speed broadband internet to our area,” the Orono post states. “These speeds could be up to 200 times faster than the speeds residents and businesses currently have access to.”
The new internet connections will do more than just add speed, according to Bruce Segee, University of Maine professor of electrical and computer engineering.
“This is high bandwidth, bidirectional connections,” Segee said Friday. “This is going to be able to do telecommunication. It’s going to enable video conferencing from the home or remote medicine — telemedicine — and things we haven’t even dreamed up yet.
“The services that can be run through it run the range of television and video to virtual reality gaming and telecommunications and any other thing people can image,” he said. “It’s going to be cool.”
The Old Town-Orono Fiber Corp., which was created to add last mile local fiber-optic cables, learned last year that it had been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission to help create the fiber-optic network.
The commission is a federal-state partnership that was created by Congress in 2008 in order to help alleviate economic distress and encourage private-sector job creation throughout the northern counties of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.
The two surveys are available on the corporation’s website, and Segee wants everyone in the region to set aside a little time to fill them out.
Old Town in October approved spending $80,000 to add their three miles of connecting fiber.
The Old Town portion would add high-speed fiber-optic cables — capable of handling 1 gigabit of data per second — along Main Street and Stillwater Avenue that would connect to Orono’s planned route along Bennoch Road and into the town’s downtown.
The plans call for utilizing the vacant Temple Israel synagogue, last used in the 1980s, as a hub for the fiber that can be used by internet service providers.
“The purpose of having this infrastructure in our community is to bolster existing businesses that can take advantage of this connectivity and to attract and foster entrepreneurs, students and recent graduates to create new businesses and enterprises that rely on high-bandwidth connectivity,” the survey post states. “To help us advance this project, please complete one or both of the following surveys.”
Residents or business owners interested in participating in a focus group to discuss current internet service and challenges can contact Orono Town Manager Belle Ryder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The corporation is working with a consulting firm on a feasibility study that takes into consideration current service, projected costs and current and future demand. It will be used to determine the routes with the most customers.
“[The $250,000 grant] is a great start but not enough to do every residence in every community,” Segee said. “We need to plan an initial route.”
The plan is to start installing the high-speed connections in the summer of 2017 and complete the project a year later.