The Three Ring Binder Will Expand Internet Options for Maine Customers
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
Let’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!