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The Three Ring Binder Will Expand Internet Options for Maine Customers

Posted on by Trevor Jones Bookmark and Share

I’ve spent most of my career marketing and selling communications services in Maine.  The Internet options available to Maine businesses and consumers have changed a lot in that time, but the Three Ring Binder fiber network will change the competitive Internet landscape in rural Maine dramatically.

For someone like me, the Three Ring Binder is such big news it’s hard to believe that everyone hasn’t heard of it.  At the MaineBiz Momentum Convention last week I talked to dozens of people. Most had never heard that this exceptional fiber network was being built in Maine.  Even fewer understood what it meant to broadband service at their home or business.

The Middle Mile

Three Ring Binder Fiber MapLet’s assume for a minute that if you’re reading this blog you’ve heard of the Three Ring Binder.  Do you know what it really means to Broadband Internet in Maine? The answer varies a bit of course based on where you are, but the bottom line is that for most of us Three Ring Binder fiber will not be coming to our door or even going past our home on the street.  The Three Ring Binder is what we call a middle mile fiber network.  Like the Interstate Highway System, it wasn’t designed to go past everyone’s home or business.  It was designed to connect communities.  Unlike the Interstate,  it was deliberately routed through some of the most rural areas of Maine, where Internet options are few.

Investment in the middle mile is important because most of the expense involved in providing broadband service in a place like Maine is in connecting the a rural community to major Internet hubs like Boston and New York.  Once you get there, connectivity is cheap, but building or leasing a connection to these major hubs is a significant barrier for a small company trying to serve rural customers.

The Last Mile

It’s the job of last mile providers like GWI, Cornerstone Communications, Axiom Technologies and others to bridge the last mile – that gap between Three Ring Binder fiber and your business.  We all do it a bit differently, so when the Three Ring Binder does show up on your doorstep, it may look a bit different than you expect.  Three Ring Binder enabled  Internet options could include:

  • Fiber to the Premise: GWI and our competitors use fiber to serve businesses today.  Such delivery will become more and more prevalent as time goes on, and will eventually be seen in many homes.
  • Ethernet over Copper and DSL: GWI and its competitors also use DSL based services like GWI Broadband and Ethernet over Copper.  These are delivered over copper phone lines that extend from  a nearby telephone central office. This technology is getting faster as time goes on, and the Three Ring Binder’s high capacity will help us get the maximum bandwidth out of these technologies while the fiber network grows.
  • Cable: Time Warner Cable and other cable companies have indicated that they will leverage the Three Ring Binder to get more capacity to rural areas.
  • Fixed Wireless: In rural parts of Maine, companies use tower based wireless transmitters and an antenna mounted on the outside of your home to deliver high speed Internet.  This is often the most economically viable means of delivery in sparsely populated areas.  Companies like Washington County’s Axiom Technologies, Knox County’s Midcoast Internet, and Aroostook County’s Pioneer Broadband will likely continue to use wireless technology to serve customers in these areas, and supply bandwidth to their towers with Three Ring Binder fiber.
  • Cellular. In some areas, a 3G connection from the cellular company is the best connection available.  As the major cellular carriers deploy 4G service throughout Maine, Three Ring Binder fiber will play a role in providing high capacity connectivity to cellular towers statewide.

The Importance of Competition

Before the Three Ring Binder, the middle mile was in the control of our state’s two dominant last mile competitors.  These competitors had no incentive to reduce the cost of getting broadband to Maine, and even less incentive to help competitors offer service in rural communities.  The Three Ring Binder is operated by Maine Fiber Company, a business whose purpose is to sell dark fiber to competitive companies on fair and equal terms. This will ensure competition and lower costs by enabling small competitive firms to offer service to rural customers with a lower cost of reaching the city than they could ever have seen before.  Without it, it’s unlikely that small companies would ever have sufficient scale to compete with the dominant phone and cable companies. This competition will drive down prices and drive up bandwidth as companies try to attract customers.  Ultimately, nothing is more important to making sure Maine customers have Internet options.

Do you have questions about the Three Ring Binder that we can answer in the GWI Blog? Please leave a comment and ask away!

 

14 Comments for The Three Ring Binder Will Expand Internet Options for Maine Customers

  1. Stephanie says:

    Just wondering when residences will be able to benefit from the three ring binder? My parents have satellite internet and it is outrageously priced and very limited. Needless to say, they’re hoping for more options. Everyone they speak to has no idea about anything Three ring binder related. The fiber optic cable is being strung up very close to their house, and will be on the poles on their street. What will the next step be for them? They want to go through GWI, but will most likely go with the first company available.
    Thank you!

    • Trevor Jones says:

      You’ve just expressed the question that is on many people’s minds. I wish the answer was a simple one. A lot depends upon where your parents are in Maine, and who is providing service in that area. Although you say the fiber is going past their home, it’s still necessary for their last mile provider to have equipment near them in order to provide service, and it will take some time for those networks to be built out. As we talked about in the blog article, when service comes it might be fiber to the home, or it might be DSL fed by fiber, or perhaps another technology. For example, GWI is planning to begin offering DSL in several Maine communities next year as a direct result of the Three Ring Binder. What town are your parents in?

  2. Stephanie says:

    They live in west old town, on west old town road. Very close to I95. Thank you for the quick reply!

    • Trevor Jones says:

      Sorry It took me a bit longer to get back to you this time around Stephanie. While we don’t have immediate plans in that part of Old Town, your parents could benefit from the Gig-U project being undertaken by the University of Maine, which could bring gigabit fiber to the home connectivity to Orono and Old Town. Since the University is a big user of Three Ring Binder already, you can be fairly certain that they will use the 3RB to power this project as well. Learn more about Gig U.

  3. If you have some time, check out this interview on radio talk show Gigabit Nation that delves into the Three Ring Binder project – http://bit.ly/qWAeO0.

    • Trevor Jones says:

      Thanks for sharing the link Craig! This is a great podcast in which Craig interviews Josh Broder of Tilson Technologies. You can also check out our Q&A with Josh Broder in the GWI Blog!

  4. joey says:

    I live in West Seboeis one mile from route 11. Who will be the last mile provider for this small settlement? The only high speed option i have is satellite and its way to expensive. Cell service is very limited. I checked with pioneer, they said the towers they have on Stickney hill in Brownville and Hammond ridge (north of Millinocket) would not reach here because of the valley I live in. My dial up provider is OTT (new Mid Maine communications). Thank you!

    • Trevor Jones says:

      The Three Ring Binder is not yet complete in your area. Completion is expected sometime next year. With regard to last mile providers in your area, we are not aware of any yet, but then again the middle mile network isn’t complete.

      Recently the ConnectME Authority released a broadband mapping application to help people find broadband providers in their local area statewide. You can find it here: http://mapserver.maine.gov/broadband/master.php It may be worthwhile to bookmark it and check back every once in a while to see who is offering service. You could also ask ConnectME if they are aware of any pending projects in your area. Email them at ConnectME@maine.gov.

  5. Julie McQ says:

    I live in Sweden, ME and have NO internet service even though the ConnectME map shows that Time Warner serves my road. How long will it take before internet service will be available to ALL of the residents on Wint Road in Sweden and to the rest of Sweden?

    Thank you,

    Julie

    • Trevor Jones says:

      Julie, Thanks for the question! Unfortunately, we can’t give you an estimate of when last mile carriers will be building out in your town, but there are some things you can do to help speed that process up.

      In rural areas, it can be difficult for for-profit businesses justify the costs of constructing high speed infrastructure without government support. A significant part of the ConnectME Authority’s mission is to determine where need exists and approve the applications of carriers seeking grant funding to build last mile connections to un-served areas. The map is one tool that they use to determine where government support is needed, so if the map is inaccurate for your road, your should definitely report the inaccuracy to the ConnectME Authority. Doing so will ensure that funding is available for your town. There is a corrections form on the ConnectME web site for this purpose. You could also organize with your neighbors and talk to carriers as a group. This will show carriers how much business they may be missing out on.

      Meanwhile, if neither your local phone company or cable company offers access you could look into a satellite service such as HughesNet or WildBlue. These services are usually slightly more expensive than DSL or Cable, but are reasonably priced and significantly faster than dial-up.

  6. Jeff says:

    Just wondering what that means for us in Skowhegan does it mean faster connections or even fiber

    • Trevor Jones says:

      As a middle mile network, the Three Ring Binder is like the trunk of a tree. It brings affordable, low cost bandwidth to town. The next step is for some private company to build the branches of the tree and connect the homes and businesses in Skowhegan to the Three Ring Binder. This could happen in several different ways. A private company could act on its own, your local community could build on its own, or your community could work with a private company in partnership to build the network. This sort of public-private partnership is what we’re currently involved in in Orono and Old Town.

  7. neal says:

    Will service finally be available thru you on Beech Hill Road in Rockport? I moved here last year and had to leave GWI behind. I hate Time Warner… Thanks, N

    • Trevor Jones says:

      Neal, Thanks for the sentiment! We offer wireless service to certain parts of Beech Hill Road in Rockport. Depending upon where you are, that might be an option for you. If you’d like us to check our coverage at your home, shoot me an email at marketing@gwi.net and I’ll have the wireless team check it out for you.

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