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Network to boost development

June 07, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

A new fiber optic cable network in Maryland will be a boost to Washington County's economic development efforts, state and local officials said.

Last week, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved a contract to build the telecommunications network over the next year along 330 miles of interstates and highways.

Level 3 Communications LLC, of Golden, Colo., will install and maintain the system. As payment for access to the public right-of-way, the state will get between $49.8 million to $222.8 million over the next 40 years, Gov. Parris Glendening's office said.

The company will resell telecommunications services to businesses.

That's where the potential economic development impact lies, said Tom Riford, marketing director for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

"There's going to be people that are drooling, wanting to tap into this high-speed line," he said.

Washington County already has a decent telecommunications network, he said. There are three POPs (points of presence), which are major onramps to the Internet.

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Local companies such as Citicorp and First Data depend on a good telecommunications network.

The nation's economy used to be based on manufacturing but now depends more on the ability to move information, said Preston Dillard, director of the Maryland Office of Information Technology's Telecommunications Division.

"At least we have an infrastructure being placed in the state that will allow us to take advantage of that new structure," Dillard said.

The increased competition could drive down prices for telecommunications services, giving the state an edge in attracting business, he said.

The state will also have access to the network for its own communications, he said.

Level 3 Communications will build the network along five key paths, the largest of which runs through Western Maryland. The paths:

* I-95 from Baltimore to the Delaware line

* I-97 to U.S. 50 to Md. 704 in the Baltimore-Washington corridor

* I-495 and I-270 from the Virginia line to Frederick

* I-70 to I-68 from Frederick to Garrett counties

* U.S. 301 to Md. 227 in Charles County to Washington, D.C.

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