With funding from the state to jumpstart their initiative, the city of John Day in Grant County, Oregon, is working with local communities to deploy fiber to nearby Burns. The infrastructure will bring better connectivity to local residents in the mostly rural community.
Beginning Of A Plan
City Manager of John Day Nick Green told the Blue Mountain Eagle that the plan is still in the works, but representatives from the county and local towns will be part of the Grant County Digital Coalition. The group, which is still being organized, will own and manage the infrastructure. They anticipate the network will likely be some sort of hybrid design, rather than Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) throughout the entire 4,529 square mile county. “Our goal is to address the entire county’s needs, but we will start with the urban corridor,” said Green.
Green told the Eagle that average download capacity in the county is 10 Megabits per second (Mbps) and local officials want the new infrastructure to boost averages to at least 30 Mbps. There is some fiber in the region for businesses but residential access is poor.
County To County
The city of John Day received $1.82 million from the state, which will fund the project. The county will deploy a 75-mile fiber optic line from Burns in Harney County to the Grant County seat, where about 1,800 people live. John Day is the most populous community in the county, where only about 7,500 people reside. Phase 1 will deploy an additional 85 miles of fiber to connect Grant County facilities, such as city halls, schools, and the county court. For Phase 2, local communities will construct municipal networks to offer residential service in the south and east of the county seat. Phase 3 will follow with a similar effort in the northern and western communities.
Once the Coalition is formed, they will decide whether to offer services directly as a utility company or to lease the infrastructure to a private sector provider. In addition to improving residential Internet access, local officials hope improved connectivity will spur economic development. The early timeline for the Grant County Digital Network estimates local residents will be able to obtain service as early as October 2018.
The “New West”
About 63 percent of the land in Grant County is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. There are several National Forests and designated Wilderness Areas in Grant County. In recent years, the community has experience population decline, high unemployment, and an aging population. They’ve started several initiatives to reinvigorate the region in order to stimulate growth, including a focus on targeting young working families and digital commuters.
State Sen. Ted Ferrioli of John Day, who worked to obtain the state funding, referred to John Day as a “new West” community. “It could turn out to be the key piece to attracting a few new employers and growing local businesses.”