With the completion of a $2 million high-density fiber optic broadband network, the rural community of Maupin is now among the state’s most competitive when it comes to internet access.
The network can provide speeds of 1 gigabit per second (gbps) per customer — the fastest broadband service available in the Pacific Northwest — vastly improving the city’s economic and educational opportunities, according to a press release.
The project, which took more than three years and financing from seven partners, including more than $935,000 from the State of Oregon, is a boon to the central Oregon town of 430 better known for its access to whitewater rafting and fly-fishing along the Lower Deschutes River than its access to high-speed internet, said the press release.
“This is a total game-changer for Maupin,” said Maupin Mayor Lynn Ewing. “Our new high-speed broadband network significantly improves the professional and learning opportunities for residents while luring visitors to stay longer and even consider moving here.”
Before Maupin set out to build its own fiber optic network, the town had some of the state’s slowest upload and download speeds, putting businesses, job seekers and kids at a disadvantage. The city partnered with QLife Network, an inter-governmental agency that’s helping facilitate reliable, cost-effective, open-access link to fiber optic, and Portland-based LS Networks to design and install the network. Maupin received financial assistance from the Oregon State Legislature, thanks to legislation introduced by former State Rep. John Huffman of The Dalles, the Oregon Regional Solutions office, and QLife Network. The network was also made possible by investment from private partners including LS Networks, Gorge.Net, Google and the Gorge Health Council.
Efforts to bring high-speed broadband access to Maupin date back to 2014, when Maupin completed a feasibility study funded by Google to determine the cost of developing a high-speed broadband network. Initial funding was secured in 2015 and design of the network began in 2016, facilitated by QLife Network. Full build-out was completed in early 2019. Local service providers, Gorge.Net and LS Networks, worked through the winter storms to complete connections to individual buildings. Today, South Wasco County School District, White River Health District, Southern Wasco County Library, City Hall, and all of the more than 300 homes and businesses have full access to the network starting at $40 for 100 Mbps speed and $70 for 1 Gbps speed.
“Maupin remained steadfast in its pursuit of attaining higher-quality internet for its residents,” said Byron Cantrall, CEO of LS Networks. “Thanks to a combination of local champions and numerous partners willing to sit at the table together, Maupin now has broadband service that rivals the speeds enjoyed by those in Oregon’s biggest cities.”
In December, Gov. Kate Brown signed Executive Order 18-31 establishing the Oregon Broadband Office, citing access to high-speed internet as an economic and equity issue. With an increasing number of cities and internet providers trying to determine how to bring broadband to their residents and customers, Maupin serves as an example for what can happen when public-private partnerships go well.
“The new high-speed fiber network in Maupin is proof that no town is too small or too remote to make sure their community is connected,” said Brown. “It will allow businesses in Maupin to grow and add new jobs while helping the school, health care providers, and local government to provide quality services. I appreciate all of the community support, including from the state’s Regional Solutions team, that improved access to high-speed internet for more Oregonians.”
Maupin’s broadband network, more affordable housing prices and safe neighborhoods are attracting more young professionals, business owners and families to settle there.
In addition to its new broadband network, the city is beautifying its downtown, improving pedestrian walkways, and building a new 3,000-square-foot library as part of a new 6,000-square-foot Civic Center. “We say out here, ‘Things are hoppin’ in Maupin’,” said Ewing. “With 1 gigabit per second and numerous construction projects underway, that’s definitely true!”