OP/ED: Internet Fiber is here in Tillamook County!


By Bill Hassell

But you can’t have it.
Unless you are a very large business, a few libraries, a handful of schools or a government agency, you cannot have high speed (aka, broadband) Internet. That fiber cable is owned and managed by Tillamook Light Wave.

To quote their mission statement:

“To provide affordable broadband telecom services to benefit the communities we serve.”

Tillamook Light Wave successfully installed fiber cables from Pacific City to Manzanita some 20 years ago.

So why is most of the fiber ‘dark’, meaning that it is sitting unused in the ground?

TLW has ‘clarified’ the above mission statement that it does mean private residences, small businesses or rural connections. Instead, the Creamery, selected city and county offices and some schools and libraries do have fiber connections. TLW has historically stated that fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) is being considered. Instead, TLW refers individuals to the Wave/Astound company, which is the current connectivity contractor for TLW (the “last mile”). And they are quoting outrageous costs ($10,000 to $40,000) for a single house or small business not currently served with high-speed Internet connections.

Tillamook County is in a digital desert. The data is buried under the railroad tracks and ordinary people can only dream of high-speed Internet as they hear about Hillsboro and Sandy and other areas just over the hills with gigabit connections. But our TLW fiber will still be mostly dark.

There is a TLW proposal to install fiber to homes along Hwy 6 and will be submitted within a few weeks. The project includes 200 small businesses and homes that will have new connections. This project will be funded by a 100% USDA broadband grant and includes 36 miles of fiber along the Wilson River corridor. But there are no future plans for adding connections in other areas of the county or upgrading current connections.

Just like the rural electrification act in 1936 where delivery of electricity was transferred to city and county utility districts as an essential service, broadband service is just as important as electricity today. The federal government has recognized the need for funding and is making billions of dollars available as grants to small and rural communities to bring fiber-to-the-home throughout the US. But TLW has no current plans to apply for additional FTTH grants, leaving the last mile for Internet providers to figure out. This also includes affordable high-speed Internet for low-income families.

Tillamook County residents need to contact city and county agencies to demand a comprehensive plan to affordably connect all of Tillamook County with broadband speeds. And to make sure the plan takes advantage of all federal and state broadband grants, including low-income support for monthly costs.

Here are the next Tillamook Lightwave meetings: https://www.tillamookcountypioneer.net/tillamook-lightwave-meeting-notice-board-of-directors-special-meetings-may-2022/