Northland bringing fiber optic to downtown

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Northland Communications technician Garry Croom splices fiber in a specially designed trailer Friday afternoon. (Photo by CAMERON RASMUSSON)

SANDPOINT — Northland Communications is aiming to give downtown businesses a serious boost in bandwidth.

Starting at the end of last week, company employees began readying their downtown infrastructure to offer the area businesses high-speed, fiber optic Internet service. The new service will dramatically improve available bandwidth for the downtown area and could potentially serve as the final persuading factor for businesses interested in relocating to a picturesque, recreationally vibrant small town.

“Companies that might not have been able to move here before due to a lack of bandwidth now have an inexpensive option,” Northland Communications business manager Bala Bishop said.

The new network will dramatically increase bandwidth options for local businesses. Thanks to the power of optical fiber — hair-width strands of light-transmitting glass — owners can secure connections as fast as a gigabyte per second. While most businesses won’t need anything that fast, Northland Communications promises to have several options and prices available.

Starting this past Thursday, Northland Communications workers prepared the fiber optic cables they installed up to two years prior, making it accessible for the technical work necessary to install points of service access.

The following day, Northland technician Garry Croom spent the day splicing optical fibers in a special facility. Similar to cable splitting, the optical splicing process will allow multiple users to hook into the service. This work occurred in a carefully controlled trailer designed for the job to prevent dust and other environmental debris from disrupting a clean fiber connection.

Although the preparation for the fiber optic network will continue into this week, business owners don’t have long to wait. According to Bishop, after the final technical work and tests are complete, the new network could go live as early as this Monday. Bishop said interested business owners are welcome to contact Northland Communications to inquire about service possibilities any time.

 According to Bishop, Northland has been preparing for this moment a long time, stringing up fiber piecemeal over the past few years. And the company doesn’t intend to stop at downtown Sandpoint either. The next target area for a fiber optic network will center on the Ponderay and Kootenai commercial districts. While a date for that work has not yet been set, Bishop said it’s a priority for the near future.

Public and private officials alike have made the establishment of a high-speed Internet network in Sandpoint a goal for the past several years. In fact, the Bonner County Economic Development Corporation is also spearheading a project to establish a fiber optic network in the most populated areas of the county. While the Northland network has no connection to that project, Bishop said it offers similarly dramatic advantages for area businesses.

“I’m just really excited to be a part of this and serve the community in some small way,” he said. “That’s really cool.”

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