Port of Lewiston limited by lack of fiber-optic link under Memorial Bridge, Lewiston Tribune, June 13, 2016

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By ELAINE WILLIAMS of the Tribune

Inland 465, the operator of a 150,000-square-foot warehouse along the Clearwater River, is the first business to connect to the Port of Lewiston’s new fiber-optic telecommunications network.

The company is buying services from First Step Internet, which is paying the port for capacity in the system that currently dead ends in North Lewiston.

The port would like many more businesses to join Inland 465, but for now, an absence of a link under Memorial Bridge where U.S. Highway 12 crosses the Clear-water River, is limiting the reach of the infrastructure.

That void is one of two important missing pieces in a public fiber-optic network the ports of Lewiston and Clarkston are creating.

The other is at the Southway Bridge on the Snake River, where the Port of Clarkston would like to put its lines so they can connect with the Port of Lewiston in the middle as early as Sept. 1.

Navigating through those issues is important to the ports, which lease to telecommunication providers at wholesale rates, enabling them to improve reliability, improve speeds and offer more services.

The Port of Lewiston is working with the Port of Whitman County to cross the Memorial Bridge, something that could happen in a few weeks, said Joe Poire, executive director of the Port of Whitman County. (See story below.)

The Port of Whitman gets to use Cable One hangers in exchange for allowing the company access to the Port of Whitman’s conduit on Red Wolf Bridge just west of Clarkston, Poire said.

“The state issued the permit to Cable One. All we’re doing is going backwards and having the state issue the permit to the Port of Whitman County,” he said. “It’s procedural.”

The Port of Lewiston got the Port of Whitman County involved because it has more than a decade of experience in telecommunications.

The Whitman port’s conduit will give the Port of Lewiston a place to put its fiber-optic lines and to go live with what it has installed on the south side of Memorial Bridge.

The Port of Lewiston has lines in the vicinity of St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, Lewis-Clark State College, Regence and the Vista Outdoor location along 11th and Snake River avenues.

Within about a year or less, they will go beneath the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport to an industrial site on its southwest side, to Clearwater Paper, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory and to the Southway Bridge.

As the Port of Whitman works to cross the Clearwater River, the Port of Clarkston is trying to find a route across the Snake River. Like the Port of Lewiston, the Port of Clarkston’s grid is set up for the community’s major employers such as the Clarkston School District and Tri-State Memorial Hospital. To hook into the Port of Lewiston, the Port of Clarkston needs to come to terms with CenturyLink, which has ties to the bridge that date back to when it was a part of AT&T.

CenturyLink has 20 conduits on the Southway Bridge and is using five, Clarkston Port Manager Wanda Keefer said in an email.

The ports of Clarkston and Lewiston would like permission to place lines in one of the remaining 15 conduits.

The bridge is owned by Asotin and Nez Perce counties and the cities of Lewiston and Clarkston. They are following those talks closely. They want to know more about the rights CenturyLink has to be on the bridge, including if CenturyLink’s ownership of the conduits ends at some point, said Dustin Johnson, Asotin County Public Works director.

The Port of Clarkston, looking for the answers to those questions, has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which constructed the bridge in the early 1980s.

The ports would like the Snake River connection to be ready by Sept. 1, Keefer said.

“We are working on potential agreements that may have some time sensitivity.”

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