Idaho Falls launching fiber optic pilot program for residents

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IDAHO FALLS — Idaho Falls Power is partnering with Utah open-access fiber network UTOPIA to begin offering fiber optic access to select Idaho Falls households.

The city council passed a resolution Thursday night authorizing Idaho Falls Power to launch a fiber optic pilot program.

Bear Prairie, IFP General Manager, tells EastIdahoNews.com they’re still finalizing the exact homes that will be included in the pilot program, but says it will include approximately 2,000 homes in the area north of Tautphaus Park up to 17th street and south of Sunnyside Road off Rollandet.

“We want to make sure that every home has access to this type of connectivity,” Prairie says. “Idaho Falls Fiber will be doing what they’re really good at, (which is) putting underground infrastructure in place. We already have hundreds of miles of infrastructure we can leverage to drive costs down and bring this connectivity out to local residents in our community.”

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The city will be sending letters to homes in these areas within the next week inviting them to participate in the pilot program. An open house is scheduled at Taylorview Middle School Oct. 23 for those who are interested. If you don’t participate in the pilot program, you can still sign up at a later time.

“We are not interested in becoming an internet service provider. Local companies will (be providing) this service. What we can do is get the fiber physically to the homes and maintain the infrastructure,” Prairie says.

IFP will be meeting with local internet providers this month to explain how to offer service over the fiber network. The cost of the service to residents will include a fiber installation fee and a bill from the internet provider.

“The utility bill you receive from the city includes power, water, sewer, and garbage collection. If you connect to the fiber network, we’ll also add the infrastructure component (to the mix),” says Prairie. “If you don’t want fiber service, (it won’t be included in your bill).”

Courtesy photo

The monthly cost for using the fiber network will range from $55 to $80, depending on speed and bandwidth. The cost for internet service will be determined by the internet provider.

Prairie says the fiber network has the ability to offer internet speeds up to 10 gigs, but the speed each customer receives will be determined by the internet provider.

“Idaho Falls Fiber is not going to get between the internet service providers and the customers. The internet providers can market and create different products and services that fit the customer’s needs.”

“This kind of public-private partnership is exciting. It allows the city to focus on infrastructure, and it allows the local internet providers to offer internet services residents trust that only the private sector can provide,” Mayor Rebecca Casper says in a news release.

Prairie says there has been a lot of interest in the community for fiber optics and hopes to have 800 homes connected in the first year.

“If we end up with more, it really proves that the demand is there, which makes the decision to go for a city wide buildout even easier.”

But if you’re concerned that a high number of fiber customers will impact internet speeds, don’t be.

“You’ll have your own strand of fiber that runs all the way back to the head end of the network, so you won’t see any degradation of speed (with increases in enrollment),” Prairie says.

The fiber rollout will begin in November. Connection to the network through an internet provider will occur between December and May of 2019.

Idaho Falls has operated a commercial dark fiber model since 2002 used by 20 different business customers at more than 550 connected fiber locations.

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