SANFORD — The long anticipated SanfordNet Fiber project – a 10-gig, 45-mile, municipal high-speed fiber optic network— has begun.

It has been multi-year journey, but work commenced quietly on Aug. 1, city officials say barring some unforeseen circumstance, it should be complete by the end of November.

“We’re very, very excited,” said City Manager Steve Buck. “It’s been the better part of five years in the making.”

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

SanfordNet Fiber will connect 87 so-called community anchor institutions — banks, medical institutions, industry, business and more —  to municipal and school entities from Springvale to south Sanford. It will connect with the Three Ring Binder in Wells.

The city is building an open access, non-discriminatory project. That means, once the network is 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. Further, Sanford is among five communities in the nation to be selected for a pilot program designed to evaluate the costs and benefits of deploying a fiber optic communications network to everyone else.

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

The bid for the construction work, of $1.38 million, was awarded in June to Eustis Cable Enterprises Ltd. of Brookfield, Vermont.

Altogether, the SanfordNet project cost is $2.02 million, with $844,396 coming from the sale of the Emerson School lot and a $769,209 grant from the federal Economic Development Administration, plus $400,000 from the Downtown Sinking Fund TIF.

Buck said Eustis Cable is getting ready to begin installing optical network terminals and fiber connections to the 87 anchor institutions and do other tasks while the utilities move the wires it has on utility poles so the city has access to the space set aside for municipal use, along with other aspects of the project.

A study conducted for the city in 2014 by Tilson Technology Management found that a new, high speed broadband system designed with business attraction, growth and retention in mind had the potential to inject $47-$192 million to Sanford’s economy over the next decade.

“This will spawn competition, innovation, better pricing, products and service,” said Sanford Regional Economic Growth Council Director Jim Nimon.

— Senior Staff Writer Tammy Wells can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 327 or [email protected]

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