Port of Lewiston edges closer to entering fiber-optic project, Feb. 13, 2015

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By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

The Port of Lewiston took important steps Thursday toward building a new fiber-optic telecommunications system.

Commissioners with the Idaho port approved both an agreement naming the Port of Whitman County as a partner in the project, and a contract calling for the Port of Whitman County to design the system for about $50,000.

“I look forward to finding out what the real cost will be,” said Port Commission President Mike Thomason.

The Port of Whitman County is playing a pivotal role because it pioneered the model the Port of Lewiston is using more than a decade ago. It will install the lines, then wholesale them at the same rate to businesses that sell Internet and other services to end users.

The Port of Lewiston plans to start with a network in North Lewiston. If it’s feasible, it will add sections that would serve St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Lewis-Clark State College, the port’s Business and Technology Park where Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories is located, businesses near the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport and other parts of Lewiston.

Economic development booster Valley Vision, the Lewiston School District, the hospital and the college have gotten behind the initiative because it would increase bandwidth and improve reliability of telecommunications service.

“(The) Port of Lewiston believes that a local-area fiber network, like roadways, (and) waterways, allows a local governing body to develop infrastructure to be used by” the private sector, public institutions and individuals to expand economic development, according to the agreement.

In other business Thursday:

  • Port commissioners renewed the port’s lease with Swift Transportation for the North Lewiston truck driver school near the LC Ice Arena, adding a 2.4-acre section that will increase the school’s capacity. The three-week classes will be able to handle 12 to 15 students, instead of nine. Thomason, who recently heard an industry expert speak, said hundreds of thousands of truck driver positions are available nationwide.
  • The commission paid $567,536 to retire a 10-year loan early from the Idaho Department of Agriculture. The loan helped pay for the addition to the port’s container dock. The port estimates it will save about $80,000 in interest by paying the loan off early.

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