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Middle men: Nashua startup tapped for fiber-optic network.

The long effort to bring broadband Internet to the other side of Temple Mountain has taken another step forward with the announcement that a small Nashua startup; along with a long-established Massachusetts firm, has won a $34 million contract to build a fiber-optic "middle mile" connection.

Nashua telecom provider New Hampshire Optical Systems was awarded the contract by Network New Hampshire Now, or NNHN.

NNHN is a public-private collaborative that received $66 million in federal stimulus money last year to create a fiber-optic backbone that is supposed to swing through the western and northern portions of the state as early as this summer. Other companies or groups could use it to bring high-speed Internet to businesses and homes.

In a region stretching from Wilton to Keene, the network will coincide with New Hampshire Fast Roads, a project involving the Monadnock Economic Development Corp. and 45 towns in that region that are seeking more broadband connections. Fast Roads will build some "last-mile" fiber connections off the network to places like schools and hospitals, and include a pilot project in Rindge and Enfield, where it will build "fiber-to-the-home" connections to most residences.

Dave Reusch, general manager of New Hampshire Optical Systems, said the company will partner with Waveguide, a Chelmsford, Mass., firm that has assembled fiber networks throughout the northeastern United States.

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"We are teaming with Waveguide, which will do much of the construction and a fair amount of the engineering, to design and build the network," Reusch said.

New Hampshire Optical Systems will own and operate the cable network when it is finished, said Scott Valcourt, director of strategic technologies for Network New Hampshire Now. "The hallmark of this system is we're relying on those last-mile providers to pick up the ball and start delivering next-generation broadband into the rural areas."

The Network New Hampshire Now concept includes loops that run through the center and western parts of the state, north to Littleton, Berlin and Conway.

It's not certain which parts of this network will go online first as it is built out, but the overlap with Fast Roads makes it likely that southwestern New Hampshire will see broadband fairly soon in the process.

--DAVID BROOKS/ THE TELEGRAPH

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Author:Brooks, David
Publication:New Hampshire Business Review
Geographic Code:1U1NH
Date:May 6, 2011
Words:369
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