Port commission signs agreement to work with the Port of Whitman County to create the new system
By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune
More high-speed Internet should be available in North Lewiston by the end of this year.
Lewiston port commissioners approved an agreement Wednesday that details how they will work with the Port of Whitman County to create the fiber-optic network. It follows years of discussion and, assuming it’s passed by the Port of Whitman County commission, will mark the entrance of the Port of Lewiston into a new sector.
“This will be great for our community,” said Lewiston Port Commissioner Mary Hasenoehrl. “It’s something we’ve needed for a long time.”
The Port of Lewiston would make wholesale leases for space on the network at 2 cents a foot per month, with a one-mile minimum to any entity that provides services including high-speed Internet, cellphone service or other phone service.
Officials said the hope is that existing telecommunications providers will increase bandwidth, improving speeds and reliability while new businesses enter the market, increasing competition and driving down costs.
“Fiber for us is no different than a road, a business park or a sewer line,” said Port Manager David Doeringsfeld.
The first phase of the project is expected to get underway in coming months under a model the Port of Whitman County has perfected over the course of more than a decade.
The Port of Lewiston would initially pay the Port of Whitman County $30,000 as its share to connect to lines that now go to the Washington-Idaho border along State Route 128 on Down River Road. They would be extended through the Lewiston port district in North Lewiston to the Memorial Bridge that crosses the Clearwater River.
The Port of Lewiston would use that hub and pay for a North Lewiston network, which is estimated to cost about $30,000. The Port of Lewiston would receive 70 percent of the revenue from the network and the Port of Whitman would get the remainder.
That revenue split, however, could change in the future. The agreement allows the Port of Lewiston to pay Whitman County an additional $100,000 within a certain length of time and get 85 percent of the revenue, not 70 percent.
The port will likely only exercise that option if it chooses to add coverage south of the Memorial Bridge, Doeringsfeld said. That expansion is being studied now.
Fiber under any expansion would reach places such as the port’s Business and Technology Park, where Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories’ Lewiston plant is located, the industrial area near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Lewis-Clark State College.
The agreement also contains a bailout clause where the Port of Lewiston would allow the Port of Whitman County to acquire the Port of Lewiston’s share of the infrastructure within a certain length of time.
Now that details have been approved, all three Lewiston port commissioners said they are eager to begin making the investment, especially given how crucial fast Internet is to any office.
“It’s essential,” Hasenoehrl said. “It’s the same as a telephone anymore.”
Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.