The pilot project for super high speed internet access locally will get underway soon, according to Old Town-Orono Fiber Corporation board member Jeff Letourneau.

Letournaeu updated the Old Town City Council on the project, which is a joint venture between Old Town, Orono and UMaine. The goal is to build fiber optic infrastructure locally that would  provide the same level of connectivity that UMaine has to homes or apartments. Doing so could help spur entrepreneurship, particularly for businesses that need the fastest internet speeds possible.

OTO Fiber received a grant of $250,000 about four years ago from the federal government for the pilot, with Old Town and Orono chipping together for a match for those funds, Plans had been for work to begin this summer, but bids came in higher than hoped; construction now will be done this winter, when labor costs are lower, said Letourneau,

During the pilot project, both Old Town and Orono will have about three miles of infrastructure for fiber optic line put in. In Old Town, that line will run down part of Stillwater Avenue and Center Street, with some side street coverage. Letourneay said that section was chosen because of its potential for future economic growth. Request for proposals for two other neighborhoods are also being sought, to see what it might cost to expand into those areas.

Once the infrastructure is installed, a retail service provider will be sought, with plans being to have that service available by spring, said Letourneau, who added that it is hoped the price can be fairly close to the current Spectrum benchmark of $65 a month,

Someday both Old Town and Orono could have high speed internet throughout both communities, but that could be years down the road, Letourneau said a preliminary feasibility study indicated the cost locally would be about $12 million – far more than OTO Fiber could afford, and nowhere near enough to attract typical investors for such a project. Letourneau said options such as having numerous communities seek investors jointly might be a possibility at a later date.

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