Firms unite to provide broadband
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Apr 30, 2001
A consortium of 12 local telecommunications companies plans to provide access
to broadband technology to rural communities in southern and eastern Idaho,
a project spurred by a new state tax credit.
The consortium, Syringa Networks LLC, will invest $40 million to provide
the fiber-optic network that could serve up to 150,000 people by December
The 12 telephone companies, some of which also provide Internet and cable
services, are either cooperatives or family-owned businesses that serve
about 40,000 people combined, said Charles Creason, general manager of one
of the companies, Project Mutual Telephone Cooperative Association, Rupert,
He said most of the areas to be served are rural, farming, ranching or forest
areas that have a population density of two to three people per square mile.
But there's a real demand for information and information resources in those
places, he said, adding that people who move into the area or are visiting
have come to expect such services.
"We've been looking the last couple of years to pool our resources to provide
a broadband backbone network to be able to aggregate our traffic to make
it more cost-effective...and survivable," he said.
For the past 10 to 15 years, Creason said companies had been laying down
fiber-optic cable on their own. A feasibility study showed that it would
be very expensive to link and expand the separate networks. Banks and other
lenders wanted high levels of equity for the startup, Creason said.
When the Idaho legislature recently passed a 3 percent tax credit for companies
investing in broadband technology, Creason said the incentive helped provide
the additional equity.
"The idea was to attract investment and new technology and create jobs in
rural areas suffering because the farm economies are not strong," said Mark
Snider, a spokesman for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, who has pushed for infrastructure
investment in rural Idaho. Snider said no state funding is provided for
About half of the estimated 1,400-mile fiber-optic network still needs to
be installed, Creason said.