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Gigabit Cities

Gigabit Trend Grows in Eastern Oregon

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."


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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

brooks7 3/23/2015 | 11:24:32 AM
Re: marketing speak Rural markets have quickly adapted new technology for 1 reason:  Government Intervention.  The US Government (and sometimes State Governments) have subsidized the small rural carriers for decades.  The smallest of these carriers are muni-owned, but not all of them are.  They definitely see themselves as serving their local community as a priority and want to deliver higher speeds.  The challenge normally is that they can not redo more than a portion of their network in any given year.  It might take them 3 years to redo 10K lines.  But let's remember for some of those carriers that is all they have...10K lines.

Rural Carriers spend a much higher precentage of their budget on Access than large carriers because the cost per line that they have is so much higher.  Compare Cyan and Calix for example (two companies local to me).  Calix can build a fine business (as AFC did before it) without breaking into Western Europe or AT&T and Verizon.  Cyan...not so much.  That is the difference in spending in the small carriers between Access and Transport.

seven
Phil_Britt 3/23/2015 | 10:59:32 AM
Re: marketing speak Rural areas don't have the population density of the cities, but they also don't have some of the higher costs for labor, building, political graft :) and other expenses of operating in a city. Years ago when broadband was relatively new, Wisconsin was the most connected state in the country because VOIP phones meant far lower total telecom expense costs (due to the price of long-distance landline calls) for consumers 
kq4ym 3/21/2015 | 8:32:55 PM
Re: Suburbs? i wonder too why there's growth in the big cities and rural. Maybe there's some sort of subsidy going on by the equipment supplier in this case, as they seem to want to get a toe hold in the rural market?
jasonmeyers 3/19/2015 | 8:26:07 AM
Re: marketing speak Agreed, Daniel. I love the concept of intelligent agriculture, too, and what technology can do for farmers. 
jasonmeyers 3/19/2015 | 8:23:13 AM
Re: marketing speak Some of the other service providers have said this same thing -- that customers don't understand what "gigabit" means. But I agree with you -- seems odd that they would understand megabits and not gigabits. More often, there is confusion between gigabits and gigabytes. Remember, too, that many operators -- big ones like AT&T and small ones like Paul Bunyan (the telecom operator, not the mythical folk hero) -- are using the word "gigabit" or at least the prefix "giga" in their branding (GigaZone, GigaPower, etc.). 

I, for one, plan to name my next child Gigabit Meyers to get a jump on the trend. Either that or Paul Bunyan Meyers. 
jasonmeyers 3/19/2015 | 8:19:04 AM
Re: Suburbs? It varies market to market. In some larger markets, like Kansas City and Austin, the various operators there are paying attention to the suburbs to varying degrees. In some cities, some operators are addressing the suburbs and NOT the urban core, presumably because the suburbs are where there is more residential density. Every market is unique, which makes it really interesting. I find rural markets like this the most interesting, because they are the most unlikely and in turn require the most unique business models.  
danielcawrey 3/18/2015 | 8:16:12 PM
Re: marketing speak I see a lot of potential for internet of things technology in rural areas. The fact that these types of geographic areas are looking to make sure they don't fall behind is a really good sign that IoT will proliferate in those areas – which will ultimately be good for economic development there. 
Mitch Wagner 3/18/2015 | 3:52:12 PM
Suburbs? It seems that gigabit is coming to big cities and rural areas, not so much to suburbs. Is that accurate? 
Mitch Wagner 3/18/2015 | 3:51:31 PM
Re: marketing speak Sarah, I was just thinking the same thing -- megabits per second seems like a much more difficult concept for laypeople to grasp than gigabit does. But the real test is what the network can actually do. 
sarahthomas1011 3/18/2015 | 2:23:33 PM
marketing speak I'm surprised that he said Gigabit doesn't resonate with his customers, but megabits per second does. I've heard the opposite from most other carriers. On the wireless front, most switched to advertising what the network can do, or BS monikers for 4G, instead of talking about megabits per second. 
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