SandyNet adds high tower, more customers

by: contributed photo Climbing to the top of a newly-constructed tower and standing on its top 120 feet from the ground could be a scary proposition for some, but SandyNet Network Administrator Joe Knapp is seasoned.

SandyNet is becoming an example to follow among the region's Internet providers.

The city of Sandy's nonprofit enterprise is traveling at nearly the speed of light toward its goal of connecting the entire city and its Wi-Fi towers to fiber-optic cable.

The city has just finished constructing its third and last tower to serve the rural areas around Sandy, according to SandyNet Network Administrator Joe Knapp.

The final rural installation, called the Waybill Tower, is on a hill near Waybill Road, north of Highway 26 and northeast of Boring. The $750,000 tower project was funded with $375,000 of federal funds and a long-term, low-interest USDA loan, which will be paid with user fees.

The tower's antennas are at an elevation of about 1,000 feet above sea level, and have a 200-degree view to the north toward Cottrell School and toward Boring to the southwest.

'The new tower allows us to shoot a high-capacity wireless signal to it from one of our existing towers that is fiber-connected,' Knapp said. (Existing fiber-connected towers include one near the city's Operations Center and one near Vista Loop Drive).

'So we'll feed (the new tower) with a big wireless link, and then it will re-broadcast the signal to (rural) homes.'

SandyNet customers in view of Waybill Hill should expect to get much better service. But in some cases, Knapp said, it might require adjustments or new receiving equipment.

In comparison to the single rooftop antenna the tower is replacing, the new tower has nine re-broadcasting antennas - giving it much more speed and capacity.

'We'll also use three different frequencies,' Knapp said. 'There will be service that penetrates trees, another that gets through a few trees and another that needs unobstructed access.'

The goal with the tower project, by 2015, is to add 500 SandyNet subscribers.

SandyNet is quickly moving toward the use of fiber-optic cable across its network, Knapp said. That is the ultimate goal of service providers around the world, according to information from The Fiber to the Home Council (FTTH).

Data sent through a fiber-optic cable travels so fast that if a cable was stretched between earth and the moon the data would take less than two seconds to reach the moon.

Fiber-optic cables effectively have unlimited capacity to transmit data, according to FTTH. For example, if a single fiber-optic cable was the diameter of a pencil, it could at one time carry all of the world's communication.

The city is using wireless technologies to connect the towers because connecting them with fiber, Knapp said, would cost 'tens of millions of dollars.'

But the city's goal still is to use as much fiber-optic technology as possible.

The city of Sandy's fiber-to-home project - currently a pilot project of about 500 homes in the Cascadia Village and Bornstedt neighborhoods - is the same type of project that has been built or is being built in nearly 100 communities across the nation.

There also are many more fiber networks across the country for schools, businesses and other municipal services.

Last week, Sandy's fiber-to-home project stopped receiving proposals from contractors, and this week city officials will be studying those proposals.

Soon, the residents in those two neighborhoods will be contacted, given information and asked if they want the city to proceed.

The goal for that project is to provide 100-megabyte service for a $39.95 monthly fee. Other Internet providers who offer 100-megabyte service, Knapp says, 'charge hundreds of dollars.' In comparison, SandyNet's current Wi-Fi service is five megabytes.

'This new service is an incredibly fast connection to the Internet by today's standards,' Knapp said. 'The reason we're looking at doing it is because I think in five years the standards will change.'

Knapp said the city will build its network to a capacity of one gigabyte (1,000 megabytes).

'That will allow us, over the next 10-15 years, to grow as we need to. We'll be able to provide faster and faster connections as the Internet becomes more band-width intensive.'