2014-11-14 / Community

GWI brings service to city

By Jason Glynn
Contributing Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – Parts of the city are about to gain access to super-fast Internet. Biddeford-based Internet service provider, Great Works Internet (GWI), has partnered with the city to offer service that is 100 times faster than traditional broadband to certain areas of South Portland. The company is constructing the fiber-optic network, named Gigabit Main Street, and is taking advance orders for when the system goes online this winter or early spring. A company network is currently delivering onegigabit per second service in Rockport.

Chris Dumais Jr., South Portland’s information technology director, said the city needed to find a way to have better connectivity and expand economic development. A request for proposals went out earlier this year, GWI provided the top bid of more than 20 companies, and a contract was signed in August to link multiple city properties with the high-speed fiber-optic cable.

If residents and businesses near the corridors sign up for service before the end of the year, the $300 installation fee will be waived, according to Trevor Jones, vice president of business development for GWI.

“We can do this while we’re building the network, but once the network is in place, there will be additional costs to tap into the network. We try to pass the savings on to the customer when we can,” Jones said.

Shortly after the partnership was announced, Dumais said several residents stopped by to inquire about the service. There are 114 official requests for the service, Dumais said, and other municipalities have contacted him for advice, including one from Colorado.

According to Jones, the city will cover about $150,000 of the project’s $170,000 estimated cost, with GWI paying the rest. Residential customers can expect to spend about $70 per month, while businesses will have custom pricing, business plans offering 100 megabit-per-second download speeds will start at $200 a month, he added. Jones said residents will also be able to add an unlimited home phone plan to their service for an additional $10 a month.

The proposed route includes about 4 miles of fiber installed in two phases.

“The first phase will connect Maine’s “3-Ring Binder,” (a 1,100 mile fiber-optic network that crisscrosses Maine) to the Mill Creek, Knightville Ocean Avenue, Highland Avenue and Evans Avenue corridors; the second phase will connect the James Baka Drive, Western Avenue, Westbrook Street and Wescott Road corridors; and a third phase will expand the network even farther, as funding becomes available,” said Dumais. Beyond that, “we would like to see the footprint expand, but costs are an inhibiting factor,” he said.

“Residents will be able to stream videos from providers (such as) Netflix … even multiple videos better,” than with broadband, Jones said. “Businesses that do a lot more uploading, or use cloudbased applications, will be able to do it more efficiently because our service is unique; it is symmetrical,” he said.

Dumais said small businesses will also benefit, as now they can look at hosting websites easier.

This service will likely raise Maine’s standing in average Internet speeds. According to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report, Maine ranks 37 in the nation, with an average download speed of 8.7 mbps.

According to Dumais, South Portland also became a member of Next Century Cities in September after being connected by GWI. However, the official launch was Oct. 20. The Next Century Cities is an endeavor looking to bring high-speed Internet to rural markets.

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