$40M project to bring faster internet speeds to East Hartford

A $40 million, privately-funded fiber optic project will bring the fastest internet speeds available anywhere in the U.S. to East Hartford, according to local and state officials.

Fiber optic infrastructure developer SiFi Networks plans to install in town the state’s first open access network, meaning the cables will be shared by multiple internet service providers. Flume Internet, a New York-based internet service provider, has signed an agreement to be the first provider on the network.

SiFi expects to begin construction in the spring of 2022 and complete the project no later than 2024.

Because it is privately supported, there will be no cost to taxpayers.

State and local officials, including Gov. Ned Lamont, praised the plan, which they said will be particularly impactful now that students are completing so much of their classwork online and many adults are working remotely.

“Broadband is not just a way to stream movies or scroll through social media on your phone,” Lamont said. “Access to affordable and high-speed broadband is what allows families to have uninterrupted internet when their children have homework to complete, and it allows mom or dad to have a reliable connection for their job interview using their computer. I have been fighting for increased access to high-speed broadband since I came into office and supporting these kinds of public-private partnerships have tremendous benefits for residents.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who serves on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said the events of the last year-and-a-half have illustrated the need to make faster, more reliable internet connections available to more people.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the digital divide in America,” Blumenthal said. “Access to reliable and fast internet is a must-have for families right now, as workers have shifted to telework, students continue distance learning and families utilize telehealth resources. No worker, student or family should be left behind because of a lack of access to an internet connection.”

Internet service speeds of up to 1,000 megabytes per second will initially be offered, increasing to 10 gigabytes per second over time. According to SiFi, those speeds are fast enough to eliminate common internet-related issues, such as buffering and slowdowns.

Open access internet networks make their cable infrastructure available to service providers through rent agreements. Though still uncommon in the U.S., they have been held up by some industry figures and municipal planners as a means to deliver faster internet to more people, reduce costs and spur economic development.

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