Fruitland is getting a fiber optic network that is expected to provide its residents with up to 1 Gigabit per second download internet speed by the end of the year.
The project will help with economic development efforts in the area, said Tom Kealey, Idaho director of commerce, who chairs the Broadband Task Force.
“This is a big deal for the city and its citizens,” said Dan Greig, general manager for Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, an independent telephone cooperative based in Fruitland that has served the area since 1908. “There are no other cities for many miles around us that have this capability.”
Farmers Mutual Telephone Company provides service as an Independent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC), said Greig in an email message.
“Every telephone company has a defined ‘Study Area’ where they are what is called the ‘Carrier of last resort,’ and we are that company in Fruitland,” Greig said. “Our 208-452 exchange covers an area from the Payette River north of the city to an area about 2.5 miles south of Interstate 84. The east boundary is about halfway towards New Plymouth, and the west boundary is the Snake River. We also have an exchange (208-674) that covers the area just south of our Fruitland exchange and is known as the NuAcres’ area.”
We all need fiber
The company decided to embark on the project to better serve its customers and maintain its competitive edge, Greig said.
“Our customers/cooperative owners, like people everywhere, have multiple devices in their homes and businesses that require increasingly higher bandwidth and faster speeds than can be achieved on copper cabling,” he said. “We do have competition, both by the regional cable company and some fixed wireless companies, so it is critical that we stay current with technology.”
The project involves starting from the central office and concentrator locations and either plowing or performing underground boring of fiber optic trunk cable along major routes to all subdivisions and neighborhoods in town, as well as the surrounding countryside, Greig said.
“We are placing up to three conduits along each of these routes, with one being for current fiber optic cable needs and the others for future needs,” he said.
Smaller conduits are then installed to the houses to protect the fiber optic cable, Greig said.
“The old copper cables that were in place previously were quite often not placed in conduit, because if they were dug into, they could usually be spliced in place,” he said. “If a fiber cable is cut, it usually has to be pulled out of the conduit and the conduit repaired then a new piece pulled in.” That would require digging up the yard, he said.
Greig wouldn’t say exactly how much the project cost, but said it was several million dollars, which is being funded through First Interstate Bank. He also wouldn’t say how much the service would cost customers but said it would be competitive.
So far, Farmers has about 75-80% of the Fruitland exchange completed, with hopes to have the entire exchange completed by the end of December, depending on the weather, Greig said.
“We are in the process of moving customers off of the legacy copper and onto the fiber optic service,” he said.
While the company has already sold some 1 Gbps service, 100 megabits per second is adequate for most home locations, Greig said. He wouldn’t provide specific numbers but said that “many” customers had upgraded their service.
“We have had many people, including our mayor, ask us when fiber is going to be available,” he added.
Once the project is completed, Fruitland may be able to promote itself as “A Smart Rural Community,” based on a certification from the trade organization NTCA The Rural Broadband Association.
“There are some hoops we have to jump through first, which we are pursuing, but we have already met the build-out requirement part of the certification process,” Greig said.