Thursday, May 19, 2016

I.F. City Council to hear ideas for fiber-optic network expansion

The Idaho Falls City Council will be having a work session Monday afternoon to review ideas for the city’s fiber-optic network, including expanding it directly to homes.

In 2015, Idaho Falls Power solicited proposals from consultants for refreshing the business model of the city’s fiber optic network, which was first started in 2002.
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A consulting team will be presenting expansion options at the work session, scheduled for 2 p.m. in the City Council chambers. The public is invited to attend or watch the meeting via the city’s live video internet stream.

The feasibility study, conducted by Finley Engineering and CCG Consulting, has not only looked at the cost of building fiber everywhere in the city, but also evaluated the cost of expanding the city’s fiber network.

A variety of scenarios have been studied, ranging from the city becoming an actual ISP (Internet Service Provider) to ways commercial providers might perform the service on a city network, to an open access network in which multiple ISPs provide services.

“Idaho Falls city officials believe that high speed broadband connectivity is a necessary 21st Century infrastructure offering,” Mayor Rebecca Casper said in a press release issued today. “The results of this study will poise the city to consider next steps for its already successful fiber network.”

Idaho Falls first started building its fiber optic network in 2002 to enable business connectivity and to provide better communication between city offices, power plants and facilities.

“Since that time, our network has been embraced by service providers and the business community,” said Jackie Flowers, Idaho Falls Power General Manager. The network has not only improved operational efficiencies for the city and its utilities, but it has also brought economic development and competitive internet service rates, and helped maintain city rights-of-way.

Today, nearly 400 business locations are connected to the Idaho Falls fiber network, with service being provided by seven private ISPs. “Many of our end-use customers are unaware that they are connected to the Idaho Falls network because we are the backbone that the service providers use to serve their customers,” Flower said.

The current fiber network enables voice, video and data service including access to high speed bandwidth internet (speeds in excess of 1 gigabit) and voice over internet protocol. The network also promotes video on demand and digital high-definition programming.