Port of Lewiston’s fiber-optic network growing, Lewiston Tribune, June 15, 2017

Clearwater Paper among those not yet being served

By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

A lack of space on poles along East Main Street may be the reason the Port of Lewiston’s fiber-optic network has yet to reach Clearwater Paper, one of Nez Perce County’s biggest employers.

The issue surfaced during a discussion of the $1.54 million budget for the 2018 fiscal year that port commissioners passed at a Wednesday meeting.

Half a dozen elected officials and economic development experts expressed support for the port and its investments in projects like the network.

At $375,000, expanding the network is the second-largest expense in the budget behind employee salaries and benefits.

The network expansion will be along Bryden Avenue, downtown Lewiston and at a medical professional park near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport. The network already is near other large businesses and institutions such as Vista Outdoor, Lewis-Clark State College and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories.

The port did consider an extension along East Main when it first began developing the network, but it found the poles were already crowded with other lines, said Assistant Port Manager Jaynie Bentz.

It may be time to examine that again, Bentz said.

“We have larger poles now, but I don’t know what that means for available space,” she said.

While Clearwater Paper can’t access the network, a growing number of Lewiston employers can. St. Joseph Regional Medical Center will soon be using the network. Its telecommunications provider is among those that have purchased capacity the port sells at the same set rate to large-scale users, as well as internet, cellphone and cable companies.

The infrastructure is making telecommunications more reliable for anyone in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley, whether they’re sending data electronically, watching videos online or texting.

In July, a new link across the Southway Bridge is expected to be connected with a similar network the Port of Clarkston installed in a move that will make outages less likely.

The money for economic development projects like the telecommunications network comes from Nez Perce County property taxes, which will account for $405,000 of the port’s revenue in the 2018 fiscal year. That’s the same amount the port received in the present fiscal year.

“The taxpayers experience a high rate of return for what that money does,” said Commissioner Mary Hasenoehrl.

Williams may be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2261.