MFC and the MSLN-Bringing Broadband to Maine schools and libraries.
You don't hear much about the Maine School and Library Network (MSLN), but the organization has had an enormous effect on education throughout the state over the past few decades. The consortium was originally organized in 1996 and today provides a range of critical internet related services to approximately 1,000 schools and libraries as part of the NetworkMaine/University of Maine System. MSLN also plays a critical role by aggregating the broadband requirements of these community anchor institutions, and putting them out to competitive bid periodically. This aggregation of broadband demand has been instrumental in keeping the costs under control and getting fiber optic connectivity into these buildings. It allows bidding service providers to average the cost of providing service across many locations, so they can make a business case to build fiber to locations that might not justify it on their own.
MFC has a long-standing relationship with MSLN. The University of Maine System (UMS) was a co-author of the original stimulus grant that led to MFC's creation, and MFC's three core fiber rings (Hence the Three-Ring Binder moniker) were originally designed to help interconnect 23 UMS higher education and research sites with dark fiber. A small part of the initial grant was earmarked for connecting Community Anchor Institutions to the middle-mile fiber rings. It was a natural extension for MFC to begin connecting schools and libraries with dark fiber, and that process has been ongoing for the past 5 years.
In late 2014, MFC bid on dark fiber connectivity in response to the latest MSLN solicitation. We were awarded a total of 120 MSLN sites, including 80 sites that required construction in order to install fiber optic cable. We completed this project in early 2016. As of today there are currently over 120 schools and libraries connected directly to MFC's Three Ring Binder fiber optic network-almost half of the 250 buildings currently considered 'on-net’.
Directly connecting these schools and libraries to the open-access MFC dark fiber network has several enduring benefits for the community and for Maine in general.The use of fiber optic connectivity means the internet based services are delivered over the highest capacity, most scalable and most reliable medium available. MFC's commitment to operate using a true 'open-access' model means any ISP or service provider can utilize the fiber to deliver a valuable application or capability to the community. It also means multiple providers can compete to deliver those services regardless of whether they have their own proprietary 'last-mile' connection into the building.
As MFC grows and expands the reach of this network, we will continue to bring you specific examples of fiber optic connectivity that benefits the community.