McCall region looks to grow, starting with broadband

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McCall and the rest of west central Idaho faces challenges with workforce and housing. Photo by Fiona Montagne.

Idaho’s west central mountain communities such as McCall, Donnelley, and Cascade are trying to attract workers to improve their economic development, and they see improved broadband internet access as one avenue.

“It’s a community issue,” said Andrew Mentzer, executive director of the West Central Mountains Economic Development Council, who recently led the region’s third annual economic development summit, which sold out several events and attracted approximately 150 people. “It’s the biggest barrier to economic and community development.”

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Andrew Mentzer

The region recently embarked on a project to encourage high-tech workers from expensive regions like San Francisco and Seattle to telecommute from their area, but for that to work, high-speed, reliable internet is required.

Fast, reliable internet is also necessary to attract young talent to an area, Mentzer said.

Mentzer hopes to leverage funding such as grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which, along with the Federal Communications Commission, recently awarded almost $2 million to improve broadband internet access in rural Idaho communities. Idaho reportedly has the slowest internet speed in the country, and other cities and regions are looking for alternatives to improve it.

“There are USDA funds on the horizon to upgrade broadband capacity,” he said. “Our existing providers are making upgrades, and we want to work with them.”

The group is also working with the Idaho State Department of Commerce.

McCall is also upgrading its fiber optic infrastructure in its downtown as part of a street rebuilding project.

Other issues the region confronts are a lack of workers and affordable housing, as an increasing number of housing units become vacation homes or short-term rentals and consequently unavailable or too expensive for employees in the travel and tourism sector for which the region is known – another reason the region is trying to attract tech workers.

For housing, the group presented a draft white paper to cover low-hanging fruit in the area, including modular and container housing, smaller-footprint housing and housing clusters, Mentzer said. In addition, the group wants to find people willing to have such housing units in their neighborhoods.

“We’re trying to form a ‘YIMBY’ (Yes In My Backyard) group so we can see broader community support,” he said. “It’s not a neighborhood issue, it’s a community issue.”

That could involve innovative new financing strategies for workforce housing.

“We’re working with Boise-area folks to create an impact investing platform in the region around housing,” Mentzer said. While it would still offer a standard rate of return of 4 to 7 percent, investments would be used for housing, he said.

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Vanessa Crossgrove Fry. Photo by Pete Grady.

For workforce, the group is working with Boise State University’s Idaho Policy Institute to attract talent as well as train and retain existing talent.

“Businesses are seeing both high rates of turnover and large gaps in the labor pool, particularly when it comes to entry-level positions and positions requiring skilled labor and technical expertise and experience,” noted the institute’s report. “The housing market and overall cost of living may be contributing to these challenges.”

The institute is planning to survey high school students in the region to identify future workforce development partnerships, said Vanessa Fry, research director.

Consequently, Mentzer’s group is considering strategies on recruiting from outside the area, including veterans and cultural and exchange opportunities through the nation’s J-1 visa program, which could create seasonal employment opportunities for students. For training, existing school districts could offer career technical education, or groups such as restaurants might develop industry-specific training facilities, Mentzer said.

At the same time, the region wants to maintain its mountain-town culture while Idaho grows, Mentzer said.

“We want to stay true to our roots but embrace prosperity as it comes to us,” he said.

Issues with housing, broadband and workforce aren’t something the region is going to solve in a year, Mentzer conceded.

“We need to be iterative, thoughtful and tactical,” he said.

Eastern Idaho works to improve broadband internet access

A number of eastern Idaho cities are also working to improve internet access for their citizens.

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Idaho Falls is also looking to expand fiber optic internet service to its citizens. Photo by Teya Vitu.

The Idaho Falls City Council recently authorized Idaho Falls Power to begin a pilot program to examine costs associated with providing high-speed fiber optic access to residents. The city established a 96-strand “dark fiber” network in 2002, 60 strands of which are currently used by about 500 local businesses, but it wants to make the unused fiber available to residential customers as well.

Idaho Falls is partnering with UTOPIA Fiber, Utah’s local open access fiber optic network, to design and manage the network for the residential fiber pilot program. This is the first project UTOPIA Fiber will be working on outside Utah. Idaho Falls Power will be managing its own infrastructure and building the physical connections to residents’ homes, and the system will rely on local Idaho companies to provide services on the network.

The actual boundaries for the pilot program have not yet been finalized, but the general area includes the numbered streets between 17th Street and Tautphaus Park, and it also will extend into a number of residential areas south of Sunnyside, the city said. A meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 23 at Taylorview Middle School to explain the program in greater detail to residents living in the pilot project boundaries.

Construction is expected to start in early 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, the city said.

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Ammon system network administrator Ty Ashcraft inspects the city’s fiber optic system. File photo.

The neighboring city of Ammon has received national renown for its city-owned fiber optic system.

In addition, the Pocatello company Tru Fiber, partnering with Citizens Community Bank, said it is bringing fiber optic internet to the Highland neighborhood of Pocatello, as well as three Chubbuck neighborhoods. Thus far, the company has installed about 1,000 residential customers.

Ammon keeps on blazing new trails with city-owned fiber optic

Ammon is hooking up homes to its city-owned fiber optic cable. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Ammon has installed its city-owned fiber optic system in the first 300 homes in this eastern Idaho city.

Since 2011, Ammon has brought municipal fiber optic cable to nearly all city facilities. City-owned fiber optic also serves dozens of businesses and the Bonneville Joint School District, which is connected with Ammon’s fiber at the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Department.

Ammon a few years back gained wide acclaim for a demonstration of how its open-source fiber optic system gives the sheriff’s office instant access to school security video systems.

Ammon, population 15,540, is considered a national leader in municipal fiber optic systems, even drawing a June visit from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai. Pai tweeted about the “city’s unique model for deploying & operating dark fiber infrastructure & delivering high-speed internet to fast-growing town near Idaho Falls.”

Ammon has been anticipating spreading city-owned fiber optic city-wide for years but only started the first residential installations in December 2016. The city hopes to have 500 homes hooked up by the end of the year, said Bruce Patterson, the city’s technology director.

“We learned a lot in the first year how hard it is,” Patterson said. “You have some people who really want fiber and work with us. Some are not interested in fiber but we have to cross their ground. We have a society of extremes. There’s a natural tension.”

Ammon is pioneering a local improvement district concept where homeowners are “buying” the fiber optic connection from the city’s mainline to their home. Brigham City, Utah, appears to be the only city to use a Local Improvement District, or LID, for fiber optic installation before Ammon, said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis.

Mitchell believes Ammon is the only city with an open-source and automated system that enables homeowners to change Internet service providers through the city’s website.

Mitchell lauded Ammon in 2016 for having the most advanced fiber optic technology among U.S. cities.

“Other cities look at them as a model,” Mitchell said recently. “No one else has implemented open access yet. It’s not something you can do overnight. In a year, I’d say five or 10 more cities will be moving down that route.”

The city is not an internet service provider. The city simply is providing the fiber optic system for ISPs to lease space on. Ammon so far has three ISPs on board – but not CenturyLink or Cable One, as neither has the capability to alter their large-scale systems to integrate with Ammon’s, Patterson said.

“While we are not integrating our systems with Ammon’s city-owned network today, we will continue to evaluate future expansion opportunities in the area,” CenturyLink spokeswoman Kerry Zimmer said in a prepared statement.

Fiber optic as utility

Nearly a decade ago, Patterson grew frustrated with the poor internet connection in city facilities and what he called an “ongoing maintenance nightmare.” Ammon since 2003 had made many infrastructure improvements, including a new sewer treatment plant, a water holding tank, a public works building and improved main water lines. Patterson convinced the city council to provide fiber optic as an essential city service.

“We’re not doing any of the service,” Patterson said. “We recognize the fiber as the utility. We are democratizing critical infrastructure.”

Direct Communications (DirectComm) of Rockland, Idaho; Fybercomm of Idaho Falls and SumoFiber of Centerville, Utah, are the ISPs leasing fiber on the city network. Sumo does not have any fiber of its own.

“Sumo would not be here without our fiber,” Patterson said.

Ammon first outfitted The Cottages, The Villages, Stonehaven and  Mountain Valley neighborhoods after enough residents said at public hearings that they wanted the city’s fiber. The city established a Local Improvement District known as LID1 to pay for the project. Each homeowner tapping into the city system was charged either $2,955 upfront or could pay $198 a year for 20 years, Patterson said.

LID1 got buy-in from 273 of 380 homeowners or 72 percent. Mitchell noted Brigham City’s 30 percent buy-in had been considered impressive.

“There is more social cohesion in Ammon,” Mitchell said.

Ammon started fiber construction in the second local improvement district in April in the Cottonwood Hills, Founders Pointe and Eagle Pointe neighborhoods involving 375 homes. The fiber optic to the first home was turned on July 7 and LID2 should be complete by November, Patterson said.

He expects the cost per homeowner in LID2 to be $3,300 but the actual cost won’t be known until the work is completed.

Patterson said a residential customer using the Ammon fiber optic has a typical monthly internet bill of about $58 for 1 gigagbyte service – $16.50 for the LID, $16.50 operations cost and about $25 for the ISP, though depending on the ISP plan chosen that can vary from $9.99 to $109.

“Open access dramatically lowers the cost of service,” Mitchell said. “Most places 1 gig costs $70 to $100.”

Sandcreek Commons adds its 12th building at Ammon shopping center

Blaze Pizza and Costa Vida will fill the newest building at Sandcreek Commons in Ammon. Photo by Teya Vitu.

Blaze Pizza and Costa Vida will be the next national tenants at the 40-acre Sandcreek Commons in Ammon, the second largest shopping center in eastern Idaho.

These eateries will fill most of Sandcreek’s 12th structure, which is now under construction along Sunnyside Road, said Eric Isom, chief development officer at Ball Ventures, the Idaho Falls developer of Sandcreek Commons.

The 8,600-square-foot retail strip still has 2,600-square-feet in the center of the building available for one or two tenants. Construction started at the beginning of June and Isom expects Blaze and Costa Vida to open in late fall.

The architect is Dixon & Associates of Salt Lake City, the designer of several of the Sandcreek Commons structures. The general contractor is R. Jay Taylor Construction of Ammon.

Blaze Pizza has four locations in Idaho. The first was built in Meridian in 2014, and others followed soon after in Boise, Nampa  and Twin Falls. The Pasadena, California pizza chain Blaze Pizza, established in 2012, is the second-fastest-growing restaurant chain in the nation, according to Nation’s Restaurant News, with more than 270 locations in 40 states.

Costa Vida, established in Layton, Utah in 2003, has eight locations in Idaho in Meridian (opened 2006), Boise, Eagle, Nampa, Twin Falls, Chubbuck, Idaho Falls and Rexburg.

“Sandcreek Commons has been vitally important to show the state and region that we are a strong location for business,” Ammon Mayor Sean Coletti said. “We decided to place our city sign right at that corner. It’s a starting point for more business south of Sunnyside and throughout Ammon.”

Sandcreek Commons opened at Sunnyside Road and 25th Street in 2015 with its three anchors, Hobby Lobby, Broulim’s Fresh Foods and Cabela’s, and the already existing Zions Bank and Wendy’s. Since then, four more pads have been built out for Kneaders, Mountain America Credit Union, D.L. Evans Bank and Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen.  Several tenants fill a retail strip next to Broulim’s.

A 55,000-square-foot lot for an anchor remains unbuilt and six pads remain empty, Isom said.

The 40-acre Sandcreek Commons is a joint venture between Ball Ventures and Woodbury Corp of Salt Lake City. Woodbury also owns the Residence Inn and SpringHill Suites in Idaho Falls, and the Magic Valley Mall and neighboring Canyon Park East and Canyon Park West shopping centers in Twin Falls. Ball Ventures also is developer of the 450-acre Snake River Landing mixed-use development in Idaho Falls.

“It could take another three, four, five years to get (Sandcreek Commons) done,” Isom said. “I wouldn’t be surprised see us do one or two buildings a year.”

He expects to build out two pads in 2019. Except for the retail strip next to Broulim’s built on speculation, Ball/Woodbury have waited until buildings were substantially pre-leased before starting construction.

The big question is what will happen with the 55,000-square foot anchor pad between Hobby Lobby and the Broulim’s-retail strip wing.

“Mid-boxes are a challenging area in retail right now,” Isom said of mid-sized retail buildings. “The odds are that it would be split into two or three smaller tenants. A 20,000-square-foot is a little more manageable than 50,000.”

Isom estimates $40 million has been invested at the center a half-mile south of the Grand Teton Mall.

Ammon seeks to create a new urban renewal district

Ammon plans to establish an urban renewal district on various patches of vacant land in the northwest corner of the city that borders Idaho Falls.

The area under consideration falls in the two-mile stretch from Lincoln Road in the north to East 17th Street in the south and the one mile between North 25th Street and Ammon Road.

The intersection at 17th and 25th streets is home to the Grand Teton Mall. Additional retail real estate stretches south on 25th Street, the dividing line between Idaho Falls and Ammon.

“The core of the area is Hitt (25th) and First,” City Administrator Micah Austin said. “We’re looking for higher density, preferably offices. We’re not looking for retail. We have enough low-density employment.”

Austin said city officials would also like to see industrial development at the northernmost area of the proposed district.

An urban renewal district would enable tax increment financing from the district to pay for bringing infrastructure such as roads and utilities to vacant lots rather than having developers pay the cost, Austin said.

A draft map has been drawn and the city is gathering data on every lot to confirm that they meet the state criteria to be included in an urban renewal district. Austin hopes to get preliminary approval by the end of the year.

The urban renewal district would be Ammon’s second. A roughly 40-acre district established in 1994 led to construction of the Ammon Town Center shopping center with Target, Albertsons, Chase Bank and smaller shops. It expires in 2024.

Bank of Commerce is replacing its 1970s Shelley branch

Bank of Commerce is replacing its branch in Shelley with the first new branch the Ammon bank has built since it opened a Pocatello branch in 2009.

The existing 3,030-square-foot Shelley branch was built in 1976 and was the fourth branch opened by Bank of Commerce, which was established in 1959. Bank of Commerce reconstructed its Idaho Falls branch in 2015.

The old branch will be demolished, and a new 3,486-square-foot branch will be built on a neighboring lot. Construction is expected to start around the start of July with ambitions for a December opening, said Ron Johnson, the bank’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.

“We’re trying to improve the look and feel of the branch and modernize the facilities for today’s banking needs,” Johnson said.

Some banks are holding back from building new branches as customers turn to online banking. The American Bankers Association in 2016 found that 55 percent of bank customers use the Internet most often to manage their accounts. Only 14 percent primarily use bank branches. But banking preferences vary from market to market, said Mike Townsend, ABA’s public relations director.

“Many people use a mix of channels to do their banking, and branches remain popular with customers who prefer sitting down with someone to open an account, apply for a home or business loan, or simply make a deposit,” Townsend said.

In Shelley and across Bank of Commerce’s eastern Idaho territory, people still like to go to the bank. Johnson said only one-third of its customers do Internet banking.

“Our customer base is primarily rural-based,” Johnson said. “We have over 11,000 Internet banking customers out of 36,000 customers. Providing branch access is our No. 1 priority.”

Bank of Commerce remodels or upgrades at least two branches each year, Johnson said.

Bank of Commerce has 16 branches in eastern Idaho with one in Montana. The bank has $1.1 billion in assets.

NBW Architects of Idaho Falls is the architect. Bateman-Hall of Idaho Falls is the general contractor.

The Waffle Iron will serve the Liège waffle in Ammon

The Waffle Iron owner Nate Shelton installed his own sign for the new waffle shop he's opening in Ammon. Photo courtesy of Nate Shelton.
The Waffle Iron owner Nate Felton installed his own sign for the new waffle shop he’s opening in Ammon. Photo courtesy of Nate Felton.

A birthday party and an Idaho friend convinced Logan, Utah, entrepreneurs Nate and Jen Felton to open their second The Waffle Iron restaurant in Ammon, across the street from Idaho Falls.

Their opening date is dictated by the pending arrival of cast iron Krampouz waffle irons ideal for the specialty Liège waffle that they serve.

The Waffle Iron will be in the heart of eastern Idaho’s retail corridor in the same shopping center as Edwards Grand Teton 14 movie theater, just south of the Grand Teton Mall in Idaho Falls.

The Feltons opened their first The Waffle Iron in March 2015.

The interior of The Waffle Iron in Ammon has a hand painted mural of Liège , Belgium, in honor of the Liège waffle that will be served. Photo courtesy of Nate Shelton.
The interior of The Waffle Iron in Ammon has a hand painted mural of Liège , Belgium, in honor of the Liège waffle that will be served. Photo courtesy of Nate Felton.

“This is our second and probably final store,” Nate Felton said. “I want to be really involved. We take a lot of pride in our product. If I remove myself too much from (the Ammon store), the quality could go down.”

The Liège waffle is labor intensive, using a yeast-risen dough dotted with pea-sized pearl sugar rather than the standard, batter-based Brussels waffle. Both derive from Belgium. The Liège waffle started appearing in more American cities since about 2011, including Waffle Me Up in Boise .

Felton plans to make the two-hour drive from Logan for at least a couple days a week to work the Ammon shop.

Felton landed the prime location because a friend owns the Café Sabor next door and mentioned the tenant in the neighboring space wanted to get out of a lease.

“We catered a big birthday party in Idaho Falls last summer,” Felton said. “The response was phenomenal. People were begging us to come here. Back then, I wasn’t even thinking of opening a second store.”

Pawn 1 expands to Ammon

Pawn 1 opened its sixth Treasure Valley store in Meridian on July 11. Photo courtesy of Pawn 1.
Pawn 1 opened its sixth Treasure Valley store in Meridian on July 11. Photo courtesy of Pawn 1.

The march across Idaho continues for Spokane-based Pawn 1, which plans to open its 13th Idaho store in October in Ammon.

The venture into eastern Idaho will give Pawn 1 a presence in all of Idaho’s larger population centers. The Ammon store will be on 17th Street, three blocks east of the Grand Teton Mall.

The Idaho Falls area store works strategically for Pawn 1 owner Mark Lax  because the same manager can oversee the Pawn 1 stores in Twin Falls and Pocatello, which opened in 2012 and 2013 respectively.

Pawn 1 also has two stores in Boise and others in Nampa, Caldwell, Garden City, Lewiston, Post Falls, Hayden Lake and Coeur d’Alene. A sixth Pawn 1 store in the Treasure Valley opened July 11 at Ustick and Ten Mile roads in Meridian. Lax anticipates a seventh Boise area store in the Broadway/Vista Avenue area.

Lax has five stores in Spokane but is in the process of opening his first new Spokane store in 20 years. He has a single Pawn 1 in Bremerton, in western Washington,  but anticipates having as many as 20 stores in the Seattle area in the next 10 years.

Lax launched Pawn 1 in 1994 with his first Idaho store in Lewiston in 2004. He entered the Treasure Valley with a Caldwell store in 2006.

Ammon residents will get to tap into city-owned fiber optic system in April

Ammon system network administrator inspects the city's fiber optic system. Photo by Pete Grady.
Ammon system network administrator Ty Ashcraft inspects the city’s fiber optic system. Photo by Pete Grady.

Ammon plans to roll out its vaunted municipal fiber optic cable system to residents in April.

The small eastern Idaho city started linking municipal facilities with its own fiber optic cable in 2011. Soon thereafter, the Bonneville Joint School District and Bonneville County Sheriff’s Department tied into the municipal fiber optic system.

And now about 40 to 50 businesses – many of them banks – are also served by the city-owned fiber optic cable.

The goal is to make the 40-mile, $1.5 million fiber optic cable available to all 15,000 residents and commercial addresses. Ammon expects to have the first 300 homes connected to its fiber optic cable by the end of the year.

Ammon is one of only 455 U.S. cities with publicly owned fiber optics available. Fewer than 100 of those cities have it available citywide, said Christopher Mitchell, director of the Community Broadband Networks Initiative at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

“Ammon would be the most advanced with the technology they use,” Mitchell said. “They have taken giving consumers a choice to a new level. Ammon is using the hottest technology.”

Ammon’s nationally recognized fiber optic system is the brainchild of Bruce Patterson, Ammon’s technology director, who nearly a decade ago grew frustrated at the varying, inadequate Internet connections among city facilities and what he called an “ongoing maintenance nightmare” that cost the city about $3,000 a month.

In 2010, the Ammon City Council adopted a broadband policy to make providing fiber optic service an essential city service.

“Councilmember Brian Powell came to me and said ‘we have to figure out how to get competitive broadband pricing,” Patterson said.

Powell was thinking of how Ammon would mature as a city.

“Either Ammon can be a bedroom community or we can decide our own destiny,” said Powell.

The city’s network has much more capacity than the typical ISP. CenturyLink in Boise and elsewhere offers fiber optic Internet “up to 1 gig.” Ammon starts at 1 gigabit with the ability to provide up to 10 gigs to a customer, Patterson said.

Ammon residents will be able to choose their Internet service provider via the city’s website from whichever ISPs lease space on the city’s cable.

Through the website, residents will sign up, and then a virtual broadband gateway will be installed at the home. After that, residents will be able to do one-stop shopping for online service, and start and stop service right then with a click of a mouse.

“The Internet service provider turns on within five seconds,” said Patterson. “If you don’t like them, you just switch it off and select another provider.”

Ammon City Councilmember Brian Powell and City Administrator Ron Folsom have passionately pushed for superior city fiber optic service for a decade. Photo by Pete Grady.
Ammon City Councilmember Brian Powell and City Administrator Ron Folsom have passionately pushed for superior city fiber optic service for a decade. Photo by Pete Grady.

Residents would own the fiber optic connection to their homes rather than the Internet service provider. The cost is about $3,000 and can be paid in a lump sum or over 10 to 15 years, Patterson said.

The fiber optic commitment was part of an across-the-board infrastructure overhaul in Ammon as the city’s population multiplied from 5,000 in 2003, transforming it from a rural area into an urban community, as city Administrator Ron Folsom describes Ammon.

Ammon built a $40 million sewer treatment plant and a $15 million water holding tank. It increased the main water lines, purchased water rights, built a public works building and instituted automated garbage pickup.

Concurrently, Ball Ventures and Woodbury Corp. built Sandcreek Commons, the second largest shopping center in eastern Idaho, in the past year-and-a-half just within the Ammon city limits.

“Sandcreek Commons is just a result to the investment we put in the ground,” said Ammon City Councilmember Brian Powell, who has been closely tied to the fiber optic project since the beginning. “All we have to do is fiber optic and we’ll have the catalyst for business to come here.”

Brent Wilson, a leading Idaho Falls commercial real estate broker, facilitated the Sandcreek Commons tenants. He said a California developer expects to break ground in Ammon in 2017 on a 37-acre mixed-use project for high-tech business and residential. Ammon’s fiber optic is attracting business.

“That is huge. They are so smart to invest in that,” said Wilson, a broker at the newly opened Idaho Falls office of Thornton Oliver Keller Commercial Real Estate. ”You’re probably going to be seeing some big office tenants move to Ammon.”

Ammon has seen the national spotlight since launching its software defined networking technologies for its fiber optic system.

Ammon was the only city among dozens of universities and wireless technology companies invited to give presentations at three workshops in Washington, D.C. put on by the National Science Foundation in January and February: a Future Wireless Cities Workshop, a Workshop on Applications and Services in the Year 2021; and a Software Defined Infrastructure / Software Defined Exchange Workshop.

In 2014, Ammon won a $75,000 first prize from the National Institute of Justice, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, in a contest to create a new application for an ultra-high-speed computer network to enhance public safety. Ammon collaborated with the school district and sheriff’s department to stage an Active Shooter Project.

In the project, a simulated gunshot triggered a ballistic-detecting sensor that alerted video and audio systems in place at a school that, in turn, sent video and audio signals to the sheriff’s department within seconds via Ammon’s fiber optic network. Ammon then took the project to the next level and sent a live image to Washington, DC., within seconds.

“Now the police can see the shooter in seconds,” Powell said.

Story updated at 8:40 a.m. on March 8 with new position for broker Brent Wilson.

High-speed data as the standard

Much Internet service across the country is still transmitted through copper wiring, but Ammon’s broadband system uses fiber optic cable. Fiber optic is better, said Bruce Patterson, Ammon’s technology director. It has a larger capacity, and performs more reliably under varying weather conditions.

“Fiber is not affected by the environment,” he said. “When it gets wet outside or very hot, copper performs differently.”

Ammon’s Internet starts at 1 gigabit, which describes the capability to transmit 1 billion bits of data per second.

CenturyLink provides speed comparisons for 25 megabits and 1 gigabit: a 50-megabyte photo takes 1.5 seconds to transmit at 25 megabits and .04 seconds at 1 gigabit. A 700 megabyte(MB) movie takes 3.7 minutes at 25 megabits and 5.6 seconds at 1 gigabit. Patterson said Internet served by fiber optic can download the contents of a Blu Ray movie disc, about 8 gigabits in Patterson’s scenario, in about 5 seconds.

“Current technologies like DSL (digital subscriber line) from CenturyLink and cable modems from CableOne have download speeds that tend to top out at 25 megabits (Mbps) and 50 megabitsrespectively, which is 20 – 40 times slower than a gigabit,” said Christopher Mitchell, director of community broadband networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a Washington, D.C- and Minneapolis-based nonprofit that provides technical assistance to communities in areas such as banking, broadband and energy

A research group in Denmark in 2014 achieved a fiber optic transmission speed of 43 terabits, about 5,375 gigabits, according to the extremetech.com website.

“On the upload side, DSL and cable are even slower, rarely faster than 5 megabits, which means the fiber network is 200 times faster for sending information to the cloud,” Mitchell said. “Though no one application today uses a gigabit, households increasingly have many devices that cumulatively need more than 25-50 megabits at peak periods — and that demand is only growing.”