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Pend Oreille CO. Fiber Optic

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By Janelle Atyeo
Of The Miner
NEWPORT – The best way to continue to expand the fiber optic network, delivering high speed Internet and other technology throughout Pend Oreille County, involves stringing the fiber line along the county’s main corridors, according to a citizen’s group recommendation. They believe the Pend Oreille Public Utility District should speed up its timetable to do this work, justifying the expense now for state of the art control of their electrical system.
It would cost the PUD an estimated $10 million and take a minimum of two to four years to build on an accelerated schedule. This would not get the fiber to the home or business but pass by most. To wire the entire county to every home and business would cost an estimated $35 million.
Since February, an advisory group known as the Community Connectivity Committee, has been examining ways to expand the PUD fiber network which runs the length of the county to Spokane and the worldwide network.
Tuesday morning, July 8, the group presented a recommendation in draft form to commissioners from Pend Oreille County, the PUD and the Port of Pend Oreille at their regular joint meeting to discuss issues of common interest.
The citizen group recommends the PUD expand its fiber system from its backbone along Highways 2, 20 and 31 to the county’s other main corridors, following the district’s three-phase power lines. The project would cover about 80 percent of the county.
Committee member Dan Reiner, who is also the former CEO of a company that builds such networks, has offered to pay for the design of the system. His offer is only good if the PUD commits to building the fiber system along the 3 phase lines now.
Pend Oreille County commissioners have discussed contributing money from the public facilities economic development fund, and other county entities continue to look for more funding options. This could be the way it reaches the home and business or private companies could complete the system via fiber or wireless technology.
Before the project can take off, it would need approval from PUD commissioners. The PUD has not currently figured a fiber project into its budget outlook. Doing so may cause electric rates to increase. The fiber network could benefit the PUD’s electric system, allowing for automated meter reading, remote load management, theft reporting and outage information.
Three committee members attended Tuesday’s presentation, as did representatives from Pend Oreille Valley Network, an Internet service provider based in Newport. An hour and a half-long discussion ensued.
Next, the committee members will review the draft statement summarizing the group’s recommendation reached at its final meeting June 18. The statement was prepared by group facilitator Leslie Jones, who is also executive director of the Tri-County Economic Development District. Because it wasn’t ready until 5 p.m. Monday, all committee members didn’t get a chance to review it before presenting it to commissioners.
Once the group reaches consensus on the statement, plans are to make a presentation to each of the three boards of commissioners.

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