Eastern Oregon Telecom (EOT), which was founded 13 years ago as a consortium of rural telco co-ops and utilities, is now taking it upon itself to bring gigabit broadband to rural Oregon.
The operator is in the process of building a Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. -supplied GPON network throughout its footprint in Eastern Oregon, an effort that ultimately will pass 8,000 homes and businesses in the commercial corridor in the cities of Hermiston, Umatilla, Irrigon and Boardman.
The rollout offers another strong example of a somewhat non-traditional gigabit community, largely overlooked by incumbent providers, where the opportunity for the provider is unique but potentially beneficial to both provider and community. (See 1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You and Utility Brings Gigabit to Oregon Town .)
Joseph Franell, CEO of Eastern Oregon Telecom, tells Light Reading that he has high hopes that the network will help diversify a largely agriculturally based region, particularly because of the geographic location of Hermiston, the largest city in Oregon east of the Cascades.
"It's at the intersection of two interstates, and on Columbia river, and it's just primed for economic development," Franell says says. "We recommended, even before the move by the FCC to redefine broadband, that we needed to start investing in ultra-high-speed broadband for economic development, education, public safety and entertainment."
EOT now has about 150 homes on a beta test and plans to light the network to pass another 500 or so within the next month, he says. The completed network will be a combination of aerial and buried fiber cable. "Our intent is to have the majority of the aerial plant built in this calendar year, because it's the quickest and least expensive," he says.
The operator's territory is unique in that it is expansive, with farms that use advanced technologies like telemetry to control equipment, track soil moisture content and manage irrigation. EOT uses both its fiber network and point-to-point microwave to provide connectivity to its diverse and often far-flung population.
"Umatilla County is bigger than many new England states," Franell says. "We have farms that are 17,000 to 20,000 acres here. So our densities go from rural communities to the federal definition of frontier, where you have one person every five square miles."
EOT selected Huawei to supply network gear because of the vendor's focus on the rural market, Franell says. Bill Gerski, vice president of sales for Huawei USA, says his company is focusing on innovative rural operators in the US that understand the value of upgrading their systems. "A lot of them have new management that know they need fiber, a video product and services like whole home automation," Gerski says. "Rural America does not want to be left behind."
EOT's gigabit service (which is 50 Mbit/s upstream) is priced at about $170 per month. Its 100 Mbit/s downstream/20 Mbit/s upstream service, however, is priced at $29.90 per month for the first year, and $49.90 per month thereafter.
EOT is not yet marketing the service using the term "gigabit," opting instead to ease potential customers into the concept.
"When we first launched, we marketed as gigabit service and people's eyes glazed over -- they didn't understand what gigabit was," Franell says. "Now we always tell them this is a thousand megabits per second -- they're used to thinking in megabits per second. Then we get to have the conversation about multiple TVs, streaming video, the Internet of things and what with that kind of speed, you're not going to see the slowdowns and the buffering you get with your current service."
— Jason Meyers, Executive Editor, Light Reading