2018-04-06 / Front Page

SanfordNet broadband project to start July 1

Senior Staff Writer

SANFORD — Bids for construction of SanfordNet — a 10-gig, 45-mile, municipal high-speed fiber optic network are now being accepted by the city, with expected completion of the 40-mile project by Nov. 1.

Requests for proposals for the project, said to be the largest municipal network in the state, went out Friday. 

City Manager Steve Buck told the City Council on Tuesday that as of Monday, he’d already had three responses from potential bidders.

SanfordNet will connect 87 so-called community anchor institutions, from banks and utilties to medical institutions, industry and business, and municipal and school entities from Springvale to south Sanford. 

One of the 87  is Sanford Water District, where Superintendent David Parent said he was in the process of looking for a faster internet connection when the district was approached by the city to determine if he had interest in the fiber project.

"We have a fairly slow connection (now)," said Parent. He said SanfordNet speeds will help in a number of ways, both now and in the future. The utility utilizes phones that work through the internet, and also uses billing software maintained through an offsite company.

"It will make a big difference to us," said Parent. The utility has adopted a GIS platform that allows workers in the field to call up infrastructure and data on iPads, he said. A faster internet connection at the office will help  them do their job.

Parent is also looking ahead to the future, when he hopes the utility's nine water supply sources and three wells currently controlled by industrial computers utilizing radio can be controlled instead by Sanford's fast internet connection.

The city is building an open access, non-discriminatory project. That means, once built, the city will set rates to lease space to other networks, and they, in turn, will roll it out to homeowners and other businesses.

“Recognizing that high quality broadband access is critical to the future and growth of American cities in the 21st century, the City of Sanford has decided to build a fiber optic network to connect key city businesses and institutions to the statewide Three Ring Binder network (in Wells), which bypasses Sanford,” the forward to the request for proposals states. 

The estimated $1.5 million project will be financed with funds from the city’s sale of the former Emerson School property on Main Street and a matching amount from the federal Economic Development Administration.

Sanford will own the system, and GWI, a Maine-owned, Biddeford-based internet service provider, will operate it.

Bids for the project are due May 2, with the City Council making the bid award May 15.

According to the bid documents, construction is to commence by July 1. With a four-month construction date, the project should be ready to operate by Nov. 1.

The city, in conjunction with the Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council and other key players,  has been working on the plan since 2014. The project was formally announced at a news conference at the New England Broadband summit in Portland in September 2015.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 324-4444 (local call in Sanford) or 282-1535, ext. 327 or twells@journaltribune.com.

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