GWI and South Portland hit key milestone in public/private partnership

Chris Dumais presents fiber map.

Chris Dumais presents a map of Phase 1 of South Portland’s high speed fiber network at last fall’s press conference.

(South Portland, Maine) – The City of South Portland announced this morning that it is ready for Internet services provider GWI to hand over access to a fiber-optic, gigabit-per-second Internet network that can serve both business and residential customers within the City.

“I’ve notified our previous fiber optic provider that we’re ready to switch over the City’s connections, and I expect that process will be finished within a couple of weeks,” said Chris Dumais, South Portland’s Director of Information Technology. “Not only are we facilitating a network that can offer upload and download speeds of up to one gigabit, but we will also be saving the City $2,100 a month in operational costs. That’s about a half million in savings during the life of our agreement with GWI.”

Entering into a public-private partnership with GWI (www.gwi.net), the winning bidder in response a Request For Proposals (RFP), the City has begun a three-phase project that will bring approximately four miles of optical fiber, and ultra high-speed Internet service, to a significant portion of South Portland. The first phase connected Maine’s “3-Ring Binder” to the Mill Creek, Knightville Ocean Avenue, Highland Avenue and Evans Avenue corridors; the second phase, whose funding is pending, will connect the James Baka Drive, Western Avenue, Westbrook Street and Wescott Road corridors; and a third phase, ready to start now, will expand the network even farther down Highland Avenue, to the new Municipal Services Facility. The City is contemplating additional phases, as funding becomes available.

GWI reported today that it is in the middle of contracting and scheduling customer hook-ups to the new service. Fletcher Kittredge, the company’s founder and CEO, said South Portland’s willingness to think like an entrepreneur was crucial to the successful launch. “Unlike the system we built in Rockport, which the town owns, South Portland city decided to lease,” Kittredge said. “They’re excited about this new infrastructure, because it sets South Portland apart and gives the city a crucial advantage in attracting and retaining businesses that need to move large amounts of data.

“South Portland’s leaders have demonstrated that nimble, cost-effective and creative solutions are possible when your goal is to provide world-class Internet service. I suspect that this model will be examined closely by many other towns and cities in Maine.”

Dumais said South Portland’s project is in harmony with its Comprehensive Plan. The City signed a contract with GWI for $150,000 that will secure connection of city facilities, with a long-term lease. Although GWI owns the network, it is an “open network,” meaning other Internet provider will have fair access to the fiber, a condition that both the City and GWI view as an important feature to promote competition. GWI will share a portion of revenues it obtains from use of the network with the City, and has invested $70,000 to connect to its own network and make the network ready for residential connections.

MEDIA CONTACT:

Chris Dumais, S. Portland IT Director, cdumais@southportland.org, 207-767-7681