Great Expectations for Maine's SanfordNet Fiber; Completion Slated for This Fall

SanfordNet Fiber, considered the largest fiber optic community network in Maine to date, is under construction and expected to be completed late in 2019. The project recently attracted the attention of WGME, who profiled the community and the investment as part of their “Working Solutions” segment.

Check out the video at WGME's website.

Taking Control in Maine

Reporter David Singer visited Sanford and nearby Millinocket to talk with business owners and economic development experts in both communities. Sanford, centrally located in  the geographic center of southern Maine, was not connected to the Three Ring Binder, the state fiber optic network developed with funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) during the Obama administration. "11,000 miles of fiber were strung up and down Maine but not in Sanford -- 10 miles to our east, 10 miles to our south,” said Jim Nimon, Executive Director of the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council.

Rather than be left behind, the community of approximately 21,000 people decided that they needed to act on their own and pursue what has become known in the area as the “fourth ring.” Sanford’s project will emulate other projects in the state, and use the “Maine model.” The city is deploying the infrastructure and will work with private ISP GWI to bring gigabit connectivity to local businesses. GWI is a tested partner and will operate the network, having established a similar arrangement with Rockport. You can learn more about the “Maine model” in this conversation with GWI’s Fletcher Kittredge from episode 176 of the Community Broadband Bits podcast in 2015.

Making it Work

The 45-mile project will pass through three neighboring communities; the final deployment estimate comes in at around $2.3 million. Sanford has pieced together funding by selling a decommissioned schoolhouse, obtaining a federal grant, and using tax increment financing (TIF) to fill in other gaps. Obtaining the needed funds for the project put their timeline behind a bit, but the community has been determined to complete the project. 

In addition to economic development purposes, local community anchor institutions (CAIs), such as a new local hospital complex, needs the 10 gigabit symmetrical connectivity. The city has been working toward their goal since 2014 and expect to see business productivity increase from $47 - $191 million over the next 10 years. Engineers plan to connect 88 commercial premises and economic development experts anticipate at least 140 new local positions arising from the investment.

As the SanfordNet Fiber project progresses, other communities will watch and learn.

To showcase their community, Sanford created a video in 2016:

Image of the Sanford Number One pond by Kaelus Primus [CC BY-SA 4.0]