Consolidated Communications is building the largest fiber-optic Internet network in Maine and said it plans to offer connectivity to tens of thousands of homes and businesses by the end of the year.
The telecommunications company is busy laying fiber-optic cable in some of the most populous areas of the state, intensifying competition with cable companies dominating the residential Internet market in Maine.
“Historically, Maine hasn’t had much of a fiber deployment in the home, and we’re excited to change that,” Eric Garr, president of Consolidated’s Small Business Consumer Division, said in an interview.
The company intends to offer fiber-optic Internet services to 150,000 Maine homes and businesses by the end of 2022. She is building networks in Portland, Bideford-Sacco, Augusta, Rockland, Waterville, Falmouth and Bangor.
The goal is a comprehensive network that spans nearly all customers in Consolidated-focused communities, Gar said.
“My experience of building these networks a lot is always hard to get to the last house,” he said. “Our intention is to build in these cities most of the houses that are in our service area.”
The Consolidated Plan in Maine is part of the company’s overall transition to becoming a major fiber-optic Internet provider. Fiber-optic cables reliably carry large amounts of information at incredibly high speeds.
In 2020, the company received $ 425 million from a private investment firm to accelerate the growth of broadband. The following year, Consolidated launched Fidium, its brand of online services, and expanded its services to 330,000 locations in the U.S., according to an annual shareholder report. The company plans another 400,000 connections in 2022 and 1.6 million locations by 2026. Further construction in Maine is expected in the coming years.
Consolidated advertises a gigabit per second connection at an initial rate of $ 70 per month, including equipment for home Wi-Fi networks, which is slightly cheaper than the tariffs offered by the Spectrum and Xfinity cable brands. After a one-year introductory period, the monthly Consolidated price increases to $ 95 per month.
Gigabit speeds are 1,000 times faster than megabits per second, and are considered fast enough for multiple devices to simultaneously stream 4K video, play online games and take advantage of other high-bandwidth features.
“We don’t think there is a comparative product in the north of New England,” Garr said. “We quite often hear from customers that they are not necessarily satisfied with the service they receive. The combination of fiber netting that has not been offered in Maine so far and a really good customer experience will be really powerful. ”
Smaller Internet service providers, including Great Works Internet, or GWI, Pioneer Broadband and Otelco, already provide fiber-optic home services in limited areas of Maine, often as part of municipal broadband projects.
However, Consolidated expansion will be a major shock to the Maine Internet market, said Peggy Schaefer, executive director of ConnectMaine, a government agency that specializes in universal broadband access in the state.
Many of the areas targeted by Consolidated are already served by high-speed Internet and therefore are not allowed to use state or federal money to expand fiber-optic services, Schaefer said. Despite the ability to access high-speed Internet, reliability and affordability remain issues, and consumer demand for fiber for the home remains.
“In many of these markets, they face competitors, including cable companies,” Schaefer said. “The fiber connections they introduce are of high quality and low latency. Competition will help reduce costs. ”
Consolidated – formerly called FairPoint Communications – is the state’s largest telecommunications company and has an existing network of landline telephone lines, she said. This means that the company can quickly install new fiber-optic lines.
“They have an advantage in price and time because they own the pillars and they’re already on them,” Schaefer said.
The expansion is privately funded, although Consolidated is a partner in a federal grant to install fiber internet in Rangley, Farmington and Blue Hill. Maine has set aside about $ 250 million to provide broadband service in underserved parts of the state.
Consolidated expansion can also help this mission, Schaefer said. As the company’s fiber-optic trail expands, it could look a little further to connect areas it would not otherwise consider, she said.
“It’s a bonus for all of us,” Schaefer said. “We are very excited about this.”
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