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Fiber upgrade may prove decisive for private industry

Pacific Cabinets tells board of upcoming decision to stay or leave Ferdinand for better Internet

Idaho County Courthouse

Photo by David Rauzi
Idaho County Courthouse

— As the Idaho County Commission grappled with the question whether or not to commit public money to studying a plan for upgrading Internet infrastructure for the county’s own emergency services, the board kept returning to a more basic question last Tuesday, April 3.

Where is the fiber that is already in the county?

As for where fiber is located, CenturyLink was said to have live connections to Cottonwood and Kamiah already, but not in the quantity local private companies require. And for private companies, such as Pacific Cabinets Inc. (PCI) of Ferdinand, which had two representatives at the meeting, the looming question is whether it is practical to keep high-tech facilities here.

On April 3, Bock and Josh Lovetere of PCI told the commission it’s hard to say where fiber lines already exist.

“CenturyLink just acquired L3 communications back in November, which makes them one of the largest fiber providers in the United States,” Lovetere told the board. “We’ve been talking to CenturyLink about the potential for extending either from Cottonwood to Ferdinand or from Craigmont to Ferdinand. That’s to the tune of $100,000 to $250,000 to build out a single line just for PCI.”

“They bypassed Ferdinand when they went from Craigmont to Cottonwood?” Zumalt asked the PCI men.

“It’s hard to say,” Lovetere said, “because there’s not a lot of good mapping going on as to who has done what. There was one study out of the University of Wisconsin three years ago that did as best they could, and there’s 2,500 internet service providers out there. So, it’s a difficult task. … Most Internet service providers do not actually own the fiber that they utilize, the exceptions being the large players like CenturyLink.”

Bock also told the county commission PCI faces a big decision over whether to build its own Internet infrastructure – a decision he told the board will reach a critical point in the next one to two years and that could lead to a move within three to five years.

“PCI is 100 percent committed to the prairie and wanting to further develop our business in the community here,” Ken Bock, information technology manager at PCI clarified for the Free Press Friday, April 6.

On April 3, he told the county commissioners improving Internet infrastructure could make big ripples for local communities: “The opportunity of having fiber up on the prairie would open up – besides ensuring PCI’s future on the prairie and keeping us here – it would open up a lot of other business opportunities for entrepreneurs, for kids to do research and have trades on the prairie,” Bock said. “As far as technology goes, if we’ve got that sort of Internet connection opportunity up here, there isn’t a business model that we can’t operate from a technical standpoint from the prairie. As it stands right now, PCI is tapping out the resource pool for people and engineers here on the prairie, and the infrastructure does not handle the technical knowledge of people on the prairie.”

“Is it the same at our hospitals and our banks?” Zumalt wondered aloud. “It’s got to be.”


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