Ziply improving North Idaho broadband internet service

Sharon Fisher//May 29, 2020

Ziply improving North Idaho broadband internet service

Sharon Fisher//May 29, 2020

photo of tds fiber optic network
North Idaho cities are getting fiber optic cabling. File photo

HAYDEN — Ziply Fiber, which recently took over Frontier Communications’ telecommunications services in four Northwest states, including Idaho, has purchased Wholesail Networks to help improve broadband internet connectivity in the region.

“The key is that they have a backbone network that has become our backbone, which connects all four of our states,” said CEO Harold Zeitz. “Previously we had just one connection to the internet. Now it’s diverse, with two routes.”

The additional network also means Ziply can do its own peering, which lets two networks exchange information.

“It’s a way to get faster connections for any content you want,” Zeitz explained. “Our routers and servers are in the same data center as Netflix, YouTube, Google and Facebook.”

Pricing for the acquisition was not disclosed. Wholesail has about 45 employees, all of whom will be retained.

‘What about here?’ ‘Here too’

photo of harold zeitz
Harold Zeitz

In addition, the Kirkland, Washington-based company, with Idaho headquarters in Hayden, has announced the first 13 cities where it expects to provide more fiber-optic networks, including three Idaho cities: Coeur d’Alene, Kellogg and Moscow. This is the first phase of its plan to improve fiber-optic broadband internet connectivity in North Idaho. It will have about 300 “fiber blocks” with a rolling installation every 60 days or so.

“Depending on the size of the community, it may take a few months to finish,” Zeitz said.

“At the first employee meeting, one employee asked, ‘What about here?’” Zeitz said. “I said, ‘Here, too.’”

Zeitz said he is particularly excited about building fiber-optic networks in Kellogg.

“Kellogg is exciting because that area doesn’t have great speeds and great alternatives,” he said. “I’m super excited to bring that.”

The goal is to pull fiber near every business and home in an area, and when a residence or business signs up, install a “drop” to connect the actual building.

“We don’t physically connect it until they ask us to,” Zeitz said. “The next person who occupies the building, it’s already there.”

Installation costs $90, while residential service of 1 gigabit per second (Gbps) costs $60 per month, Zeitz said. A “pre-signup” process will be available on the company’s website for people to indicate that they’ll be interested in the service, he said.

Businesses have more alternatives depending on how much speed they want and whether they’d like to contract, typically $100 to $300 per month.

“If they want to sign up for a longer period of time, they get a better deal,” Zeitz said.

The company can offer other services to businesses as well, he added.

Unlike many other internet services, which feature a lower speed transmitting to the internet than receiving data from it, the Ziply service offers 1 Gbps both upload and download, Zeitz said. In the current situation, that’s important because services such as video conferencing send as much data back as they receive, he said. The service offers unlimited data and its speed doesn’t change, like cable broadband does, when multiple people are using the network, he said.

Awash in fiber

Financially troubled Frontier Communications sold its Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington operations in a $1.35 billion transaction to Northwest Fiber, operating the company as Ziply Fiber. The deal was signed on May 29, 2019, and finalized on May 1.

Over time, Ziply Fiber has said it expects to provide fiber-optic broadband internet to a number of other Idaho cities, including Hayden, Post Falls, Sandpoint, Rathdrum, Cascade and McCall. The company has said it hopes to improve fiber access in the cities it serves and has committed $100 million toward the project. Frontier offered fiber optic networking in 31% of the areas that it services and Ziply would like to increase that to 80%, according to company documents.

Soon, North Idaho may be awash with fiber; TDS announced last year a project to bring fiber-optic broadband internet to Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls, Hayden and Rathdrum.