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Proposed C.O. fiber optic cable line aims to boost rural connectivity

FIBER CABLE MAP

(Update: Adding video, comments by official, Legend Cider)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- If you're having trouble with internet service and connectivity in some rural areas of Central Oregon, that could be resolved soon.

The Deschutes and Fremont-Winema national forests are proposing to authorize the Zayo Group to install and operate 35 miles of underground fiber optic cable from southern Bend to the La Pine area.

The cable will be buried on ODOT right-of-way along Highway 97 and on Forest Service land along state Highway 31.

It's part of a Colorado company's proposed project that extends from Prineville to Reno, Nevada. They said it will help improve the bandwidth and connectivity in rural communities in Oregon, California and Nevada. The goal is to help rural communities maintain service during natural disasters.

Christina Peterson, NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) planner for the Bend- Fort Rock Ranger District, said, “The purpose of this application is to provide redundancy to these rural communities, which means that if there is damage from a storm or even from a rodent chewing the line, there will be another line available to provide that activity while the other one is repaired.”

Officials said the fiber optic line project will extend about 32 miles on the Bend-Fort Rock Ranger District of the Deschutes forest and 1.5 miles on the Silver Lake Ranger District on the Fremont-Winema.

The conduit and cable system would consist of three 1.25 inch-diameter high-density polyethylene buried conduits that contain the fiber optic cables.

Legend Cider, an outdoor bar and tasting room in La Pine for the past two years, said fortunately for them, being off of Highway 97, they have a fairly good connection -- but that's not always the case for their patrons, who may be traveling and don't find as strong bandwidth.

Owner Tyler Baumann said it'll be good to have improved connection in the rural communities.

"I think being in the rural community of south Deschutes County, it's just important to have internet connection for everybody, especially with the times going on right now," Baumann said. "If everything is going to be online for school and work, it's obviously a top priority that everything be connected, so they can continue living their normal day to day lives." 

A public comment period for community members to give their input is underway, through Sept. 15. After an analysis is completed and a decision is made, construction of the cable line is expected to begin next March.

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Arielle Brumfield

Arielle Brumfield is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Arielle here.

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