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City would do well to study and pursue fiber optic network


In the late 1990s, as The Star was starting to publish online as an experiment, access to the internet was not essential. Things have changed.

Today, the world is online. New and innovative ways of accomplishing old tasks more efficiently often also lead to other improvements, better insights, more services or, sometimes, lower expenses.

For better or worse, access to the world through the avenues of the digital revolution are now essential, and many rural areas in the United States still struggle and fall behind economically for lack of high-speed access.

Last December, Coulee Dam purchased 96 strands of fiber that run under the Columbia River Bridge, connecting the east side of the river to west, which connects to Grant County PUD’s fiber network.

That’s a lot of “bandwidth.” One strand of fiber can carry 2.5 million phone calls simultaneously, according to information on a survey the city mailed in utility bills this week. A single copper pair of wires that power conventional phone lines can carry six.

But fiber also can carry any type of “data,” that is, media that has been converted to bits of digital information. And that enables all kinds of services that are not possible otherwise.

That would include working from home, which, for those telecommuters who can work from anywhere, is an essential part of life in a world where global collaboration is the norm across projects.

Not having that kind of access, even while the fiber was running right through town for a decade, put property in Coulee Dam in a less desirable category, and has limited the ability of even in-home businesses to operate, or a small-town newspaper editor to post photos from home after a late-night game, for example.

Town leaders will need to be astute as they study the numbers, but we’d bet their survey will show enough enthusiasm to spur them on to provide a service to their constituents that at the moment is at best less than certain, and at worst impossible — one that the future will prove to be absolutely necessary.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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