by Mike Weland (Published on kootenaivalleytimes.com, June 12, 2019)
If you’ve noticed all the work going on along the Highway 95 utility corridor north of Bonners Ferry, it’s a project to connect Boundary County Schools to fiber optic communications in a network that reaches Coeur d’Alene, which will give the district great leaps forward in internet, telephone service and more. But, for the time being anyway, it will not bring fiber optics to homes.
The school district received a grant partially funded by the Federal Communications Commission a few years ago, and Fatbeam, based in Coeur d’Alene, won the contract, as they have in school districts up and down the west coast.
Fatbeam enters a market by building fiber optic networks for individual school districts. Once the network is fully constructed in that district, Fatbeam is able to offer fiber to other entities in the community – including hospitals, banks, local government offices as well as telecom and Internet carriers, driving economic development.
During FCC hearings in 2015, Fatbeam was lauded for championing the federal program to “deploy and provide smaller markets with competitive options.”
“I like to say fiber optics starts out at four times the speed of copper,” said spokesman Phil Siemens in explaining what Fatbeam provides. High-speed internet tops out at about 20 kilobits (20,000 kbps) per second, ultra high-speed internet, he said starts at 1gbps, or one-billion bits per second, and can go as high as 400G. In addition, the bandwidth, the maximum rate of data transfer across a given path, increases exponentially as well.
Once the fiber network “backbone” is laid, the work now underway from very near the Canadian border south, School District 101 schools and the district office will be connected by a “light speed” wide area network (WAN) as well as the next generation of internet service.
Once the school district is up and running, the infrastructure being put in now will allow Fatbeam to add business and government entities to opt-in, as well telecom and internet service providers, who could one day provide fiber optic internet to residential customers.