Hillsboro city councilors consider plan to install high speed Internet lines during street construction.

Hillsboro city officials are considering a plan that could open the door to bring high-speed Internet to large parts of town someday.

On Tuesday, the Hillsboro City Council approved the first of two readings of a city ordinance that would allow construction crews to pre-install fiber-optic-friendly pipe into the ground, should high speed Internet services want to utilize them.

Often, city officials said, after neighborhoods are built, utility companies and Internet providers will want to bring their services to town, requiring work crews to dig up freshly paved roads in order to place cables.

"We want to avoid cutting into the pavement and sidewalks, and other invasive procedures from occurring in the future," said Gregg Snyder, project manager of the massive South Hillsboro development currently underway near Cornelius Pass Road. "The focus here is on access."

Under the proposed plan, as new neighborhoods in the city are built — or existing neighborhoods are re-developed — crews would take the opportunity to install empty pipes into the ground, which can house fiber optic Internet or other technologies in the future, should agencies or companies need it.

The issue needs to be addressed, Snyder said, because work in South Hillsboro is ramping up. The state's largest housing development, South Hillsboro is expected to bring 20,000 new residents to the city over the next several years.

Two years ago, Google announced it had scrapped plans for ultra-high-speed Internet to come to the Portland area. Google Fiber wasn't the first to consider the idea. In 2014, the city of Hillsboro began work on a plan that would have made fiber optic Internet a city utility, available to all city residents. That plan proved to be too expensive. City spokesman Patrick Preston told the Tribune this week that while Tuesday's decision likely won't re-open those talks, it shows the city's commitment to smoothing the process to bring high-speed Internet to the community.

"We recognize that having high-speed Internet is essential to everyone," he said. "That hasn't changed. If anything, it has become more apparent."

By pre-installing housing for fiber-optic cables, Snyder said the idea is to incentivize others who currently offer the service to come to Hillsboro.

"There is no question this is an asset that could be used in the future," Snyder said. "How this is used is a question for later. The time for building these pathways is now in South Hillsboro."

The council will hold a final vote on the issue Feb. 2.

By Geoff Pursinger
Associate Editor, Hillsboro Tribune
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