The Boothbay Harbor Broadband Committee heard from Lincolnville Communications Inc.'s Director of Marketing and Sales Alan Hinsey and Vice President of Engineering and Operations Randal Manning on Monday. The LCI representatives spoke about what a fiber optics network is, how it differs from other services and the potential costs to bring LCI into both towns.
Fiber optics is basically magic, Hinsey joked, and the fibers, minuscule glass tubes allowing information to be transmitted in pulses at the speed of light, are “thin as a hair, but only limited by your imagination.” The only real limits are by the electronics on either end, he said.
Internet, video streaming and direct peering (e.g. Netflix, Google, Apple) only fill out about one third of fiber optics capabilities, Hinsey explained. He marked the other two thirds on a pie chart as “the future?” “This is at the beginning of this use of technology … There are (capabilities) we don't even know about yet …”
Fiber optics differs from coaxial cable and digital subscriber line (DSL) copper, Hinsey said. “When you buy a 50 Mbps fiber connection, you get a 50 Mbps fiber connection really 24/7.”
LCI provides a "three-leg redundant internet" service which links through southern Maine to Boston and New York City and to the north in Halifax which links to Europe. Providing service to many data service companies, banks, hospitals and research facilities, LCI recognizes the importance of connectivity, said Hinsey.
LCI currently has 17 miles of fiber placed in Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor with 62 customers and the potential for 116 more customers. With a central office already in place as well as the transmission fiber and redundancy, Hinsey estimated it would take 128 more miles of fiber to bring service to every business and home – estimated to be 3,920 households – and LCI would require a take rate of 50% or 1990 households. Installation at the take rate would cost an estimated $2,770,000 for Boothbay and $1,610,000 for Boothbay Harbor.
Committee member Darrell Gudroe said though the committee was created by selectmen, the issue was brought to the forefront by strong efforts among Boothbay selectmen and efforts going forward should be in unison.
"We're here because they started this … We probably shouldn't keep thinking separate, Boothbay versus Boothbay Harbor if we're going to work at this as a group together … I really feel like this could be the divide that if we find out our costs are a third of what theirs are, then we won't agree to go on this endeavor together.”
Costs can be curbed by grants and initiatives, Mike Tomko pointed out from the audience; and he said since Boothbay's neighborhoods are far less dense, Boothbay has a chance for those funds that Boothbay Harbor does not.
Warren said three things come to mind about what fiber optics offers: telemedicine, education and remote employment. Manning identified those as somewhat central to LCI's mission when partnering with communities.
“Those are things we can work on … We're willing to invest, too,” said Manning. “So, whatever number that was, we're going to put something in it, too. That's part of the partnership and that partnership will keep going with communication and with what that fiber can do.”
Hinsey said some people call fiber-optic future-proof, but there's really no such thing. “But it's pretty darn close.”