A Maine telecommunications company is about to grant Bangor and Brewer one of their biggest economic development wishes ¡X access to the fastest, most up-to-date broadband Internet service.
Lewiston-based Oxford Networks has announced it will invest more than $4 million to install a 34?-mile fiber-optic network in downtown Bangor and Brewer, offering business customers fiber-to-the-premises, or FTTP, service. Fiber transmits Internet and local and long-distance telephone data significantly faster than DSL, which stands for digital subscriber lines.
The move is based on similar initiatives taken by Oxford in 2001 in Norway and South Paris and in 2003 in Lewiston and Auburn.
"Beginning two years ago, we looked at 41 communities in Maine for fiber-optic investment and expansion. We quickly recognized the growth, community vitality and strategic importance of the Bangor-Brewer business community," said Craig Gunderson, Oxford¡¦s president and CEO. Gunderson said the initiative "will make Bangor-Brewer one of the few cities in the U.S. with such large broadband capacity."
Since 2001, Oxford has been constructing a redundant 600-mile fiber network connecting Bangor, Waterville, Augusta, Lewiston, Auburn, Portland, Biddeford, Sanford, Portsmouth and Boston. Founded in 1900 as Oxford Telephone & Telegraph Co., Oxford now provides Internet, telephone and digital television to more than 17,000 residential and commercial customers in the southern, western and central parts of the state.
"We haven¡¦t ruled out residential service [in Bangor and Brewer]. It¡¦s just not part of our short-term objective," said Oxford spokesman Matt Jancovic.
The new fiber network in Bangor and Brewer will cover the downtown areas, mainly strung on telephone poles but underground in some parts. It will extend out of town on Union Street, Broadway, Hogan Road, Odlin Road and Maine Avenue in Bangor and along South Main Street and U.S. Route 1A in Brewer.
Construction is expected to begin in December, with FTTP service available next May.
"One of the top questions businesses have about selecting a site involves telecommunications capacity. By offering FTTP capability to the city of Brewer, both our existing and new businesses can be among the most highly networked in the state," said Tanya Pereira, Brewer¡¦s economic development specialist.
Oxford already has about 12 local business customers, whose existing copper and fiber line service will remain until the new network is complete. At that time, those customers will be transferred to the new network. Some of Oxford¡¦s local clients include Webber Energy Fuels, St. Joseph Hospital, Eastern Maine Development Corp. and the University of Maine System.
Several communications companies now run fiber lines through Maine to connect their offices. From those offices, DSL carries data over standard copper telephone wires to individual towns and homes.
DSL transmits data at a rate of between 1.5 and 2 megabits per second, about 30 times faster than a standard dial-up modem. Oxford¡¦s FTTP lines transmit data at up to 1 gigabit ¡X or 1,000 megabits ¡X per second.
"Fiber to the premises is the way to deliver the highest-speed, broadest bandwidth services known. Using fiber as the pipe, its capacity can be increased by upgrading the electronics at either end of it. The capacity of fiber has hugely increased over the years," said Phil Lindley, executive director of the ConnectME Authority, a board created to assist in Gov. John Baldacci¡¦s goal of providing broadband service to 90 percent of Maine households by 2010.
Verizon¡¦s Portsmouth, N.H., office provides its fiber-to-the-premises service, called FiOS, to customers in Eliot and Kittery. Verizon also sends fiber directly to numerous schools and health care, commercial and government facilities around the state.
Businesses of all sizes can benefit from FTTP, Jancovic said. Oxford does not advertise standard packages and rates, but said it consults with individual customers to determine the services they need.
"Our services often save customers money. We offer a superior service at competitive rates," Jancovic said.
Oxford also plans to open a sales office in Bangor or Brewer in the coming months. Overall, the company will increase its work force by more than 10 percent, Jancovic said.
Oxford now employs about 120 people.
"Oxford Networks has a long history of community involvement," Gunderson said. "We intend to continue our 100-year tradition of strong corporate citizenship through civic donations and community investment."