The upgrade is expected to benefit local education and business development

After securing grant funding in 2010 for a region-wide high-speed internet project, Bend Broadband recently completed a fiber optic ring linking multiple communities, including Prineville.

According to Bend Broadband’s website, the company applied for funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and was awarded $4.4 million through the federally-funded Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). They added another $1.6 million of private investment with the goal of funding a 40 Gbps, 132-mile fiber ring to bring broadband connectivity to more Central Oregon communities.

“To make this a reality, the Central Oregon Fiber Alliance (COFA) was formed,” the website said. “COFA is a partnership of Bend Broadband with the local communities of Madras, Prineville, Sunriver, and La Pine, as well as key health, educational, public safety, and business development entities.”

Completion of the fiber ring was not the only goal COFA met. They also installed fiber connections to four area business parks and business district hubs, as well as broadband connections to 17 community anchor institutions that include schools, libraries, emergency service facilities, and government offices.

Locally, the completion of the fiber ring is expected to benefit secondary education and business growth. Tim Deboodt, County Lead for OSU Crook County Extension Service, noted that it enhances what the Open Campus facility can offer online.

“For us, what it means is continued opportunities in the video conferencing realm, and utilization of the technology within our building,” he said.

It further increases internet redundancy, which Deboodt says is critical for modern education and business.

“I can remember years ago when we would get notice in Central Oregon that a backhoe operator in Portland severed our cable and things like banks and other institutions relying on internet would suddenly be down,” he said. “So, in part, the redundancy and the increased capacity that the BTOP program brought us is significant . . . within the Central Oregon system for education, for business, and even for personal use.”

When it comes to recruiting businesses, Russ Deboodt, Crook County Economic Development Manager, believes the completion of the new fiber ring is paramount.

“When you talk to site selectors for data centers, there are four things they look at — land, water/sewer, power, and fiber,” he said. “As any business goes forward, as we go further and further into this technology-driven world that we are living in, having connection to high speed internet is going to be extremely important for any business regardless of what industry.”

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