Future economic development efforts in Old Town and Orono could get a big boost in the near future, with officials looking at taking steps toward high-speed internet access.

Like many rural areas, Old Town and Orono have struggled with theirs Internet connection speeds – a key component in enticing new businesses to come and existing ones to stay. Many companies these days simply cannot do business without the fastest internet speeds available.

Such speeds are available through the Three Ring Binder project, which has created an open access fiber-optic network extending to the most rural and disadvantaged areas of the state of Maine, linking the unserved and underserved areas of the state together with a modern communications network. The project is a 1,100-mile network that will pass through more than 100 communities and make broadband more readily available to 110,000 households, 600 community anchor institutions, and a number of last mile service providers.

The public-private partnership expects to provide 100 Mbps broadband capabilities for University of Maine campuses, community colleges, government facilities, public safety departments, the MaineREN research and education network, and rural healthcare clinics and hospitals; it also will benefit clinics and hospitals by allowing for more immediate contact with clinical healthcare specialists and by increasing the collaboration of local community-based healthcare providers with specialists in major metropolitan areas.

A joint effort between Old Town and Orono, together with the University of Maine, has led to a $250,000 grant from the Northern Border Regional Commission. That funding would allow high speed fiber optic line to be installed locally, with plans calling for three miles of line to be installed in both Old Town and Orono. That line would transfer information at a blazing one gigabyte per second.

Once councils in both Old Taown and Orono approve, installation of the line could begin. Plans call for its hub to be located in the old Beth Israel synagogue in Old Town, which has been vacant since then early 1980s.

Several providers could have access to that hub. And not only would high-speed internet be available for businesses – residents of both towns could have access to it as well.

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