Schools, businesses, public entities to benefit

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - Amy Tykeson, president of Bend Broadband, addresses a group of officials gathered at the new Madras COCC campus to commemorate the start of a 150-mile broadband fiber construction project, which will extend from La Pine to Madras, Prineville and Sunriver. Bend Broadband was awarded a $4.2 million grant from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to build the broadband infrastructure.

A broadband project to extend fiber from Madras to La Pine to Sunriver and Prineville was celebrated Saturday, when officials gathered at the new Madras Education Center.
   "We will be starting construction in two weeks," said Amy Tykeson, of Bend, president of Bend Broadband, who expects the 150-mile project to be completed by the end of next year.
   Tykeson said that there are two main goals for the project, "to provide fiber connectivity to 25 community institutions, schools, libraries and public entities, and to improve access and affordability to downtown businesses and industrial areas with broadband Internet access."
   For example, she said, the Madras Industrial Site, and the new Central Oregon Community College Madras campus will benefit from the project.
   In smaller communities, such as Madras, she said, "The speeds and connectivity are not as robust as larger communities. It will bring the region up to big city standards."
   According to Frank Miller, chief technical officer for Bend Broadband, the fiber will provide 1 Gbs initially, but handle up to 10 Gbs without any additional investment.
   "It's got decades of legs," he said, adding that the bundled quartz fiber assets installed in the 1980s are still good today.
   U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, said that Oregon has about 50,000 jobs connected to wireless communication. "This means jobs; this means better health care," he said. "I'm delighted to be part of it."
   COCC President Jim Middleton was enthusiastic about what the project will mean for higher education in the area, which once again showed double digit growth. "The faster speeds facilitate access, particularly when you look at pictures and video," he said.
   "With that as a foundation, that allows us to discuss options that we might otherwise not consider," Middleton said.
   For example, he said, if there is a critical need for a particular kind of training in Madras, but not enough students, the class could be held in Bend, with students participating through telecommunication.
   "It used to be that broadband technology was more of a luxury," commented Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon. "Now it's a necessity."
   Chris Tamarin, telecommunications strategist for Oregon Business Development, said the grants are focused on underserved areas.
   "The state views telecommunication as essential infrastructure for the support of economic activity," he said. "The Internet is emerging as the global platform for business and communication, education, government and entertainment. That's why this kind of infrastructure is so important for this part of the state."
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