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To improve online connections for Redland residents, Clear Creek Communications gets award from U.S. Department of Agriculture

To improve internet for residents of rural areas outside Oregon City, Clear Creek Communications was recently awarded a $6.9 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utility Services ReConnect Program. COURTESY PHOTO: CLEAR CREEK COMMUNICATIONS - Attendees of the celebration at the Clear Creek Communications office in Redland on Oct. 11 learn about fiber optics.

Clear Creek officials say that these funds will allow them to deliver fiber-optic broadband service to the greater Redland community. An initial construction phase consists of about 500 homes in the rural portion of Clear Creek's service area of nearly 3,000 households in the greater Springwater Corridor just west of the Clackamas River.

Federal loans lay the foundation for the first phase of broadband infrastructure upgrades for the 116-year-old cooperative that will deliver internet speeds up to 2 Gigabits (2,000 Megabits per second) through dedicated fiber-optic connections to each home.COURTESY PHOTO: CLEAR CREEK COMMUNICATIONS - U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden and Clear Creek President Jay Henke were among the attendees at the celebration in Redland on Oct. 11.

"This project will start to add Redland members to the national fiber footprint," said Clear Creek Communications President Jay Henke. "It will also better support the growing number of internet-connected devices the average subscriber has in their home today like smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, health trackers and doorbell cameras."

Regional and national dignitaries met at the Clear Creek Communications office in Redland on Oct. 11 to celebrate the award and collaborate on broadband initiatives. Participants included Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Jewel Bronaugh and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.

"You cannot have big league quality of life with little league communications systems," Wyden said. "And what we're talking about today is again the effort to make sure that modern communications — that we need for our healthcare, for education, for jobs, and above all for public safety — get into every nook and cranny of the state." COURTESY PHOTO: CLEAR CREEK COMMUNICATIONS - Regional and national dignitaries met at the Clear Creek Communications office in Redland on Oct. 11 to celebrate the federal loan.

Engineering for the fiber project is expected to begin late this year, with the first phase of member installations occurring next year. It is anticipated to take three years to convert all 500 addresses in this initial undertaking.

"This is a game-changer and an investment," said Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Dr. Jewel Bronaugh. "Realizing more is needed, this is a great start. This is going to help with opportunities such as high-paying jobs, expansion of businesses, educational opportunities, health care and new economic markets. We are excited about this commitment we are making to rural America."

Fiber optics provide faster download and upload speeds and a more reliable connection than traditional copper or coaxial cable lines. As the number of connected devices per person continues to increase, the need for quality, reliable internet service has never been greater yet only 43% of US homes currently have access to this technology.

Clear Creek plans many other fiber upgrades for its service area, which bury the internet lines, rather than installing them aerially, making them far less susceptible to inclement weather.

Henke said that 2021 started with one of the most devastating winter storms the Redland community has ever faced, and it took a couple of months for Clear Creek to rebuild from extensive damage. Meanwhile, many in the area continue to work from home or participate in online learning, leading to increased dependency on the internet.

"For all of these reasons, Clear Creek will continue to put most, if not all, of our annual capital budget in internet reliability and increased bandwidth," Henke wrote in this year's annual report for the company.

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