The City of American Falls will provide free fiber optic internet access to all residents

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AMERICAN FALLS — In partnership with a Rockland-based communications company, the City of American Falls will soon offer free fiber optic Internet access to all residents.

As Mayor Rebekah Sorensen told EastIdahoNews.com, this plan advances efforts already in place to create better opportunities for residents. The city currently provides Internet in city parks and offices, and is “excited” to provide this opportunity.

“Technology is advancing everywhere, so we don’t want to be left behind,” she said.

Going a step further, Sorensen continued, this type of access creates an appeal for new residents and small businesses in American Falls. She thinks the new internet, along with other new things the town has in the works, will encourage people to stay and the town’s kids to come back after college.

The fiber optic internet hotspots will be provided to the 1,474 homes in American Falls by Direct Communications, a family business based in nearby Rockland. Development of the fiber optic network, which will include a state-of-the-art process called microtrenching, is expected to be completed by 2023.

KaLee Ralphs, the company’s spokeswoman, told EastIdahoNews.com that they have been working on similar programs with other rural towns in Idaho to “bridge the digital divide.” She added that it will be the largest such venture the company has engaged in.

“The goal is to ensure that every household that wants fiber has it in their homes,” she said.

The advantages of fiber-optic internet service over copper-wired, satellite or other wireless broadband options are significant, Ralphs said.

For starters, fiber optic cables are unaffected by the weather. Although other wired options can freeze or slow down with the heat, fiber optics retain their efficiency in freezing winters and hot summers. There is also no dish to serve as a collection point for snow and rain, nor a satellite signal that can be obstructed by trees.

“It’s underground, so there aren’t those issues,” she said. “The biggest difference I see is that the upload and download speed for fiber is the same.”

As anyone who has tried to post a video on YouTube knows, such an effort can be time consuming with other internet options.

The fiber optic system will operate throughout the city, with access or drop-off points at each interested resident’s home. Ralphs, however, expects some townspeople to refuse the service.

For several reasons — not wanting to switch providers, not understanding or believing the government will use the service to spy on people at home — some residents turned down the hotspot in every city where his company provided service. similar.

Sorensen encouraged all residents to take advantage of what she said was “a no-brainer, in my book.”

Even if residents decide not to use the hotspot and bring fiber optic internet to their homes, the benefits of a free service that would normally cost thousands of dollars are significant.

“It would at least be wise to allow Direct Communications to put gout in their homes,” she said. “That way, in the future, if they sell or someone else comes in, it will increase the value of their house. …You don’t have to have it. But to have that option, when the cost is covered, I strongly encourage everyone to, at the very least, give themselves the opportunity.

According to Ralphs, adding a fiber optic access point increases the value of a home, on average, between 3% and 5%.

According to Ralphs, another argument that could be presented is the current lack of needs.

“Right now the city of American Falls may not need fiber,” she said. “But in the next couple of years, and with the pressure on broadband increasing over the last few years because of the pandemic…there will be huge pressure on (other) networks.”

So far, though limited, Sorensen’s communications with residents about the plan have been entirely positive.

“The people I spoke to, each one of them was like, ‘Well, when are they coming to my house?'” she said.

How quickly people start seeing their hotspots will depend on Direct Communications’ micro-slicing process.

Ralphs said this newly developed technology allows his company to dig a trench in the road, about 3 feet from the sidewalk, to lay the fiber network before filling the trench. This less labour-intensive process allows his business to bypass the electricity and water grid already in place.

“It’s quite state-of-the-art. Few companies use it,” Ralphs said. “It’s faster because you don’t have to fight with all the other utilities.”

While work has already begun, the city and Direct Communications will host what Sorensen called a “kickoff event” at noon Jan. 20.

“I really appreciate Direct Communications for giving us this opportunity, for being willing to help American Falls in this way,” Sorensen said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

“I expect good things for the city,” Ralphs said. “I hope this will attract more residents and small businesses and help them grow. We are delighted to be part of the process.

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