Residents, merchants closer to fiber access

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(Courtesy photo) Sandpoint City Council approved fee structures Wednesday for leasing fiber infrastructure, moving Sandpoint closer to offering the high-speed network to area residents and businesses.

SANDPOINT — City Council approved several resolutions Wednesday, moving Sandpoint a few steps closer to offering fiber internet to area residents and businesses.

"I think we are all excited to see high-speed internet come to Sandpoint like we haven't had it before," said Mayor Shelby Rognstad.

The resolutions passed include dark fiber fees, a memorandum of understanding with Bonner County concerning the fiber network backbone, and a lease agreement with Ting Fiber, Inc. for a piece of city-owned property to house network equipment. Council members also heard presentations from Ting and Intermax Networks representatives who are looking to offer service to residents in the near future.

Monica Hubbard from Ting said the company officials are currently focused on planning and design, which will take about six months, after which construction will begin. During the planning and design process, the company will put out a neighborhood announcement based on its pre-order campaign. Residents can pre-order service for $9, she said, which is refundable if someone changes their mind. Neighborhoods with the highest pre-order rates are generally built first, Hubbard said.

"Our goal here is to start construction, based on the neighborhoods that have the strongest demand, sometime in the summer with a goal of finishing in November," Hubbard said. "If we don't finish by November, of course, we have to go into next spring and we'd rather have it wrapped up in November."

Ting officials will also be holding community events in the months leading up to construction to talk about packages and pricing, as well as an introduction to the company's new television packages, which will launch about the time Ting fiber goes live in Sandpoint.

Jim Cost with Intermax said Ting is "not the only player in town" as the North Idaho-based company is also looking to provide service in Sandpoint. Intermax is located in Coeur d'Alene and, while it does not offer television packages, he said the company offers high speed data services, managed IT services, security services and digital voice services. Since it was founded more than 10 years ago, the company has grown to more than 3,500 customers in North Idaho.

"We've been building this a long time and we continue to hope to play a big part in the growth of economic development for Sandpoint and surrounding areas," Cost said.

Companies like Ting and Intermax would likely use the "indefeasible right of use" cost outlined in the dark fiber pricing structure, which is a lump sum, one-time fee. IRU pricing is outlined at $3,550 per strand with a six-strand minimum. For 13 to 24 strands, the price per strand is $2,367 — a 33-percent discount — and 25 or more strands at $1,183 per strand.

According to the pricing structure, providers will be charged an annual maintenance fee of $333 for up to 24 strands, and $167 per year for 25 or more strands. The maintenance fee includes a stipulation that it can be increased or decreased every other year based on changes in actual maintenance costs.

The approved MOU between the city and county was agreed on for the purpose of creating access to each others networks as the county moves forward with its fiber network as well. According to the MOU document, the access is "critical for providing a broader government fiber network, which will allow for the city and county to connect all of their respective facilities and improve emergency communications."

The final resolution approved by council on the topic of fiber was the lease agreement with Ting for a portion of city-owned property at the corner of Superior Street and Ella Avenue. It was determined by city staff the location would be ideal for Ting's equipment hut because the city is not using it and because it is located along the main fiber line.

Mary Malone can be reached by email at mmalone@bonnercountydailybee.com and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee

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