Fiber optics on the way to Blaine?

Published on Thu, Oct 11, 2001 by Pat Grubb

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Fiber optics on the way to Blaine?

By Pat Grubb

Broad band fiber optic internet, data and voice communications capability could arrive in Blaine as soon as next summer, according to Whatcom County Public Utility District (PUD) #1’s Mike Fournier. Speaking at a meeting October 4, Fournier described efforts currently underway to provide a ‘public broadband highway’ that would provide affordable connections to public and private organizations.

The meeting is one of a series to be held to gauge public and local business interest in obtaining high-speed open access. The Whatcom Open Network is a consortium of the PUD, cities and public entities in the county seeking to establish a fiber optic backbone and supportive technology throughout the cities and rural areas of the county. The initiative arose after Bonneville Power Administration began in 1999 connecting its electrical sub-stations with fiber optic cable and dedicating four fiber optic strands for public access. The association of state PUDs formed the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) to manage Bonneville’s public fiber deployment.

Current plans would connect public entities such as civic government, school and health organizations while excess capacity would be sold to wholesale purchasers such as Internet Service Providers (ISP) or local telephone exchanges.

Speaking at the meeting, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said the city had not decided how local businesses and homes would be connected to the fiber optic network. Such connections are generally referred to as ‘last mile solutions.’ Tomsic said the task could be contracted to a private company or it could be undertaken by the city itself. Each home and business would be serviced with four strands of fiber optic, enough to provide sufficient band width for internet access, telephony and other services such as movies on demand.

Organizers are excited by the potential benefits of high-speed access in reinvigorating the local economy. They cite increasing congestion in Seattle and Vancouver and a migration out of the cities to rural areas in search of a higher quality of life.

High bandwidth and sufficient infrastructure are basic requirements for today’s businesses, they say, and providing these services will be part and parcel of managing inevitable growth in Whatcom County. .

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