Idaho Falls, ID –The City of Idaho Falls City Council passed a resolution Thursday night authorizing Idaho Falls Power to begin a pilot program to examine the costs associated with providing high-speed fiber optic access to Idaho Falls residents.
“Essentially, Idaho Falls Power already manages a large infrastructure that provides fiber to numerous local businesses, government and schools,” said Bear Prairie, General Manager of Idaho Falls Power and Idaho Falls Fiber. “What this resolution does tonight is formally direct us to prove the feasibility of expanding our network throughout the city.”
Prairie said that the pilot will allow Idaho Falls Power critical connectivity with residential electric customers to provide better power monitoring and customer service. It will also deliver previously unavailable fiber access for internet connectivity if customers want to use the additional bandwidth.
“With this project, I wish to make clear that we are not interested in becoming an internet service provider. We anticipate local companies will want to provide this service. What we can do is get the fiber physically to the homes and maintain the infrastructure. That is something Idaho Falls Power is really good at.”
Idaho Falls Power already maintains hundreds of miles of power and fiber lines that are run above ground on poles or buried underground throughout neighborhoods. With the passage of tonight’s resolution, work now begins within the study area to design a network that will provide connections from those lines to homes.
“Designing a system like this is a detailed, complicated engineering function,” said Prairie. “This is why the Council also approved an agreement for us to work with Utopia, a company specializing in network design and management. It important to note that Utopia won’t be a service provider, they’ll simply help design and manage an open access system. The system will still rely on local companies to partner with to provide internet service.”
“This kind of a public-private partnership is exciting. It allows the city to focus on infrastructure—something we excel at,” said Idaho Falls Mayor Rebecca Casper. “And, it allows the local internet providers to offer the internet services that residents trust and that only the private sector can provide. It captures the best of both worlds.”
Prairie pointed out that because Idaho Falls Power already has the fiber backbone and can run new lines through existing power infrastructure, the utility can build the residential fiber network at a fraction of the cost any other company would face.
“We already have lines running to every building in town, so paralleling those lines makes good economic sense.” IF Fiber will build and maintain the lines that local providers can then use to market their internet services to the neighborhoods and residents.
The actual boundaries for the pilot program have not yet been finalized. However, the general area includes the numbered streets between 17th Street and Tautphaus Park and it also will extend south into a number of residential areas south of Sunnyside.
Idaho Falls Fiber will be sending out a letter in early October to residents in the pilot area. An open house also will be held at 6 p.m. on October 23 at Taylorview Middle School to explain the program in greater detail to residents living in the pilot project boundaries.
Design of the network will begin right away with construction expected to start early in November and continue through the spring. Service to customers will become available as the project progresses, beginning sometime between December and May depending on customer location.
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