Gorge.net plans big fiber optic upgrade

Local telecom provider Gorge Networks is planning the installation of an expansive new fiber optic network it hopes will be in place to deliver blistering-fast internet to customers in the Hood River area by next year.

Gorge Networks President Dan Bubb was in attendance at a recent Port of Hood River meeting to inform commissioners about the scope of the project, which would begin at the port.

“Our goal is to deliver high-capacity internet access,” he told commissioners. “We’re talking 100 megs or higher. We want to deliver that throughout the port and the city, clear out through the Heights and the county.”

Gorge Networks has been doing planning work on the fiber optic network for the past year and is pursuing the project in order to upgrade its telecommunications network and “provide the best internet access possible to our customers,” according to Bubb, who said his company serves “several thousand customers.” The network will be comprised of 6-8 miles of fiber optic cable that will be installed at the port east of the pedestrian bridge and run from downtown, up past Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital, and through the Heights before terminating near Nobi’s Gas & Drive Thru Deli on Tucker Road. Bubb also said the network could stretch as far west as the Rockford Grange.

In addition to higher internet speeds, which are needed for performing more bandwidth-intensive activities such as downloading music or streaming video, Bubb told commissioners that fiber optic internet provides other advantages over cable, satellite, and DSL internet services.

“Fiber is symmetric, so, if you get a 100-meg fiber connection, it’s 100 megs up(load) and 100 megs down(load),” he explained. “DSL and cable are asymmetrical. So, when they say you have a 20-meg DSL or a 20-meg cable connection, it’s 20-megs download, but usually the upload is about a tenth of the download.”

Bubb added that having a fiber connection could help attract tenants to port buildings.

“Fiber does attract new businesses,” he said. “Having a wealth of connections is a differentiator for businesses when they’re trying to decide where to locate.”

Bubb estimated it would take “less than three months” to lay the fiber optic cable, which Bubb said had a diameter “at most, the size of a penny.” Cable would be strung across existing utility poles as well as undergrounded using a minimally-invasive boring machine that would require no road or sidewalk closures.

“The boring machine, it just bores a hole underground, there’s no backfill, there’s no nothing,” he explained to commissioners. “All we’re pushing through there is enough space to push some conduit.”

Bubb said on Thursday he expected project construction — which will be contracted out to a Heppner company called WindWave Communications — would start by Nov. 1 and would hopefully be completed “by the end of the first quarter of next year.” He explained he is waiting on a decision from the port to grant a right-of-way for the boring as well as the resolution of a franchise agreement with the city that Gorge Networks has “been working on the past few weeks.”

Bubb noted that Gorge Networks is particularly interested in offering service to “high-density” neighborhoods such as Pacific Heights and the Avalon developments, but a decision still needs to be made about how homes will be connected to the network — either directly, called “fiber-to-home,” or over the air.

As to when Gorge Networks customers could see fiber optic internet service switched on in their homes and businesses, Bubb didn’t have an exact date, but said customers could “theoretically” have access to the network “within the second quarter of next year.”

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