Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Ketchum plans to boost Internet speed

City to initiate 10-year broadband strategic plan

Express Staff Writer

Ketchum residents and businesses that wish the city had faster Internet might just get their wish—within the next 10 years.

“The city recognizes that broadband is an essential, critical infrastructure for our economic growth, and that the advancement of technology and infrastructure associated with broadband will play a key role in our economic future and quality of life,” states a preliminary draft of a broadband strategic plan, written in July by the Community and Economic Development Department.

Department Director Lisa Horowitz said the city has had plans in place for the long-term development of its road, water and sewer system infrastructure, but that infrastructure for high-speed Internet “slipped through the cracks.” She said development of the plan will take about nine months to a year, but if it is then approved by the City Council, Ketchum will be the first city in Idaho to have a broadband strategic plan.

Mayor Randy Hall said he wants to put a steering committee together in the next month or two to begin “rolling the project out.”

“Businesses are clamoring and screaming for faster Internet,” he said, “It’s for the health and well-being of our city.”

In July, the city appropriated $20,000 from the Community and Economic Development Department’s budget for the plan’s development, but Horowitz said it might not cost that much.

“We’re not going to spend money just for the sake of it,” she said.

Currently, high-speed broadband is available in Ketchum through Syringa Networks, but the city does not have the infrastructure in place for businesses to easily “plug” into it.

“At the moment, a business might have to pay to underground five to six blocks of cable to tap into Syringa’s network,” Hall said. “This is prohibitively expensive.”

Horowitz said some businesses in Ketchum—such as Sun Valley Gold, which requires high Internet speeds to conduct its financial transactions—have paid to install the necessary infrastructure themselves. She said St. Luke’s Wood River, the Community Library and the Blaine County school system are also connected to Syringa’s high-speed network.

Hall said the city’s goal over the next 10 years is to extend high-speed connectivity across Ketchum’s commercial core and throughout the light industrial section.

Horowitz said the federal government offers grants for cities to increase their Internet infrastructure and she wants to make sure Ketchum is “strategically positioned” to receive grant money for its broadband plan.

She said Ketchum has a franchise agreement with Idaho Power that states that every time the company opens a trench in the city limits, it has to install conduit through which the city might later run wires for high-speed Internet.

Hall said that’s a good way to install the necessary infrastructure over time.

“We’ve put a lot of conduit in place over the past five years due to this agreement,” he said.

Syringa Networks spokesman Bill Coale expressed excitement at the prospect of connecting the rest of Ketchum to Syringa’s high-speed network.

“We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with Ketchum and hopefully getting the city all hooked up,” Coale said.

Brennan Rego:




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