By CAROLINE LOBSINGER
SANDPOINT — With the flick of a gigantic switch, Ting sent its “crazy fast” fiber intenet to its first two customers — Total Physical Therapy and James Hutchens, PA, Certified Public Accountant.
Wednesday’s lighting cermony officially connected the high-speed internet provider’s first customers and marked the culmination of “an incredible amount of work by the Ting team,” Ting CEO Elliot Noss said.
Construction of the fiber network began in early April and the lighting ceremony celebrates the company’s first phase of installation, which includes most of the downtown and central Sandpoint areas. Businesses and residents that pre-ordered service will be connected over the next few months.
At the same time, Ting announced the second phase of its fiber network infrastructure in the south Sandpoint area and the rest of the city may not be far behind. Ting officials anticipate that all of the city will have access to Ting in the next year.
Ting’s interest in Sandpoint began three years ago and followed a long, frustrating effort by Sandpoint officials to bring high-speed internet to the community.
“I talk, and our folks talk, about telecom as a local business,” Noss said. “We know that’s not what it has become, whether it’s here or anywhere else in the world, telecom has been very, very impersonal. I think that’s just not necessary.
“It’s something that is about connection and communication and it’s important infrastructure. It is all on the ground and it’s personal.”
That’s the kind of company that Ting is and the kind of service it wants to give the community, he said.
Kate McAlister, Greater Sandpoint Chamber President and CEO, told Noss and the others gathered to celebrate at the lighting ceremony that she remembers that initial meeting from three years ago. As others celebrated, she said she was hesitant, telling Ting officials that the community had been down the road to high-speed internet before only to have it end in frustration. Noss looked at her and said, “we’re going to make it happen.” And, to her delight, she said they have.
After all, following questions about school and housing, McAlister said high-speed internet is among the most-asked questions by folks considering a move to Sandpoint along with access to recreation.
Sandpoint officials have been working with a number of internet providers to build upon the fiber network the city had been working on the past few years. Knowing how important high-speed internet is in today’s economy and world, Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton said it is exciting to see it all come to fruition.
“This is really one of the most significant, not just as an economic development but truly community development that we’ve seen in this community for literally, probably decades,” she added.
In many cases, providers have focused on high-speed internet to business customers. Ting, however, also makes it a point to provide residential service. With telecommunity and more home-based businesses, and more folks wanting to live in Sandpoint, service like that offered by Ting makes that possible, Stapleton said.
“This is really a game-changer for the city of Sandpoint in terms of an economic driver,” said Sandpoint Mayor Shelby Rognstad before joining with Stapleton and McAlister to flip a gigantic switch to officially connect service to the two businesses. “It really puts Sandpoint on the map and it also raises the bar for quality of life. Quality of life is something we talk a lot about in the community, it’s why people chose to live here and internet, high-speed reliable internet that’s affordable is one of those things that had eluded us for a long time.”
After thanking Noss and the rest of the Ting team for being great partners and saying he looked forward to the future, Rognstad gestured to the switch.
“So, let’s light up this whole town.”