December 21, 2018

Charter high-speed fiber announcement underlines issue, Mills says

Photo / Maureen Milliken
Photo / Maureen Milliken
Gov.-elect Janet Mills speaks at a Thursday news conference announcing Charter Communications' higher-speed fiber statewide. The conference was held at Sea Bags in Portland.

Charter Communications Inc.'s (NASDAQ:CHTR) announcement Thursday that it's launching high-speed fiber cable throughout Maine also served as an opportunity to underscore the increased focus on better connectivity as an economic driver for the state.

Speaking at the Portland news conference were Gov.-elect Janet Mills and Maine State Chamber of Commerce President Dana Conners, who both said better and more accessible broadband in the state is critical to its economic growth.

The Charter announcement came the day after Consolidated Communications (NASDAQ: CNSL), formerly Fairpoint, announced it completed more than 500,000 broadband upgrades across northern New England in 2018 that offer faster speeds to residents and small businesses.

The issue of broadband access across the state and the economic issues lack of it causes has come to the forefront in the past year or two.

At the news conference, held at Sea Bags on Custom House Wharf, Mills said she intends to work on the issue of better broadband in Maine as governor.

"In order to compete in today's global economy, it is critical that Maine people and Maine businesses have access to high-speed internet," she said. "With the availability of faster internet speeds, especially in rural areas of Maine, we can open the state's doors to future business investment, expand educational opportunities and attract more people to live and work here."

Connors, who was state transportation commissioner for 11 years, said broadband is as important to the state's infrastructure as highways are, and said the 1 Gpbs technology in Maine is a "game changer," not only for businesses already in Maine, but in attracting business to the state.

He said that a survey of 1,200 business owners in the state a few years ago ranked broadband accessibility 13th in importance. In a recent similar survey, it was ranked third.

He said just as it cost a lot to build a good transportation system, "It cost a lot more not to. Broadband high speed access is up there with transportation when you're talking about the economy, and people's lives."

The technology behind the business

The Charter program, Spectrum Internet Gig for residential customers and Spectrum Business Internet Gig for small and medium-sized business customers, will be available throughout the company's service area, which includes 291 communities and 650,000 residential and business customers "from York to Madawka," the company said in a news release.

Beth Shissler, president and COO of Sea Bags, said at the news conference that the new service is 10 times the speed of the business's current service. As sewing machines clattered in the background, she said, "You can hear the sewing machines, but what you can't see is the technology behind them."

The speedier internet, "Will allow us to quickly and safely transfer large files — whether they are design-related, data-related or financials — to all of our working locations as we scale the Sea Bags business."

Mills, who was elected in November and takes office next month, make better connectivity a major issue in her campaign, saying, "The economy of our future cannot be built on the infrastructure of the past."

Thursday, she pointed out Sea Bags as a "perfect example of how our state's economy can flourish with the right tools, investment, and of course — hard work."

She said the news from Charter is an example of how public-private partnerships can work together to strengthen the state's economy.

"High-speed internet helps industries across our economy grow, it creates new and diverse job opportunities, and it improves access to high-quality educational opportunities, regardless of the zip code.

"Yet while neighboring states have modernized their infrastructure to spur innovation and growth, too many Maine families, Maine small businesses, and communities have been left to grapple with slow or even inaccessible internet – and it's a constant barrier to success," she said. "Every time a small business owner can't access the tools they need to expand, every time a high school student can't complete their homework, and every time a new business or new industry chooses to move to another state that has high-speed internet, we fall behind.

"With the availability of faster internet speeds, especially in rural areas of Maine, we can open the state's doors to future business investment, expand educational opportunities, and attract more people to live and work here."

Also speaking at the news conference were Adam Falk, senior vice president of Charter Communications and District 4 Portland City Councilor Justin Costa.

Charter has a presence in 41 states, in Maine, the company, which also operates as Spectrum, employs 780, and generates 3,632 indirect jobs and $293 million in state GDP impact, according to figures from Oxford Economics that Charter supplied in a news release.

Consolidated adds higher speeds

Consolidated also has installed faster speeds, and in its Wednesday news release pointed out new business services, including one that monitors, detects and mitigates the most complex DDoS attacks and others that help manage connections, offer high-speed data solutions for smaller businesses and ease connections to service providers.

Bob Udell, president and chief executive officer of Consolidated Communications said the company is committed to bringing faster broadband speeds and enhanced services to Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire.

"And, we're continuing to invest to offer enhanced products and services and increased network reliability and stability."

Upgraded homes and businesses throughout New England will be able to get speeds two to three times faster than what was previously available, the company said.


Type your comment here:

Today's Poll Does Maine need to refocus on protecting working waterfronts from new development pressures?<>
Most Popular on Facebook