Who needs Google Fiber? Orono, Maine, getting 1Gbps broadband network

  • Brad Reed (Network World)
  • 03 May, 2012 07:34

Small-town Maine may be known best for its lobster and as the setting for several Stephen King books, but soon it could become known for its high-speed fiber network as well.

The University of Maine Wednesday announced that it would be teaming up with telco GWI to build out a 1Gbps fiber network that would connect with the Maine towns of Orono and Old Town. The towns will be getting this new high-speed broadband network as part of the Gig.U initiative that was launched last summer that aims to hook up several university towns across the United States with fiber networks capable of going toe-to-toe with the fiber network currently being built by Google in Kansas City.

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The overall plan is for GWI to start laying down fiber in the downtown areas of Old Town and Orono first, where most of the major area businesses are located, before moving onto the outer areas of the towns. GWI is also building out the network based on open-access principles, meaning that the company will "install optical fiber to the business and home and make that network infrastructure available to any service provider who wants to offer service to customers within the network." GWI says that it will offer residential customers a 250Mbps service on the network for $60 a month and 1Gbps service for $90 a month.

The Gig.U initiative was founded by more than 29 different universities this past summer as a way to help spur broadband deployment in university towns. The initiative was designed so that universities from around the country could let fiber providers know that they're very interested in offering a market for next-generation fiber networks that will give both their campuses and at least some portions of their communities access to the fastest Web services available. The universities have calculated that by acting as a single bloc of potential buyers they can convince providers that the market for building high-speed fiber networks will be lucrative and worth their investment.

The universities were inspired by Google's decision last year to build an experimental 1Gbps fiber network in Kansas City that has started construction and is expected to be completed sometime within the next year. Last summer Google lit up a beta version of its fiber network in residential neighborhoods located near Stanford University in Palo Alto. The network has been free to use for students and faculty in the area for the past year, and users in the area have reported getting download speeds of 150Mbps and upload speeds of 90Mbps.

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