Councils mull fiber optic networks

SANDPOINT — Agreements on a proposed fiber optic network will have the Sandpoint and Ponderay city councils meeting in joint session Wednesday.

Discussion on the agreements adds to an already full plate for the Sandpoint council, with no less than 10 items on the agenda. Perhaps most significantly, the Sandpoint and Ponderay city councils will meet in joint session to make a decision on agreements over a proposed fiber optic network. The joint session will begin at 6:30 p.m. whether or not Sandpoint officials have concluded their other business — if not, they will return to the agenda after the joint session concludes.

A project in the works for several years, the fiber optic network is proposed to be a public-private partnership involving Montana-based company Blackfoot Telecommunications, the Panhandle Area Council and the regional cities that choose to participate in it. If development moves forward, the project will establish a new option for broadband Internet to residents and businesses alike.

Local governments have long made the establishment of such a network a priority for the region. Facilitated in part through the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation, the aim is to attract new technological industries or existing, large-scale businesses that require a more developed network infrastructure into the area.

The regional fiber project is managed by U.S. MetroNets, an organization that achieved some success with the public-private approach in Powell, Wyo. If Sandpoint and Ponderay choose to participate in the project, they will enter into lease agreements with Panhandle Area Council, which will own the network. In turn, Panhandle Area Council maintains an anchor service provider agreement with Blackfoot Communications.

In addition to the joint meeting, Sandpoint council members have several other items on the agenda. They will return to the matter of granting Bonner County an extension in providing agreed-upon improvements in the area around the sheriff’s office and juvenile detention center and vote on whether or not to approve a plan for downtown streets.

In new business, council members will review proposed revisions to an ordinance restricting camping at City Beach and consider changing the business registration fee to a less restrictive business license fee, in addition to several other issues.

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