Technologically, many Pendleton and Hermiston residents have an advantage their urban counterparts don’t — access to fiber optic Internet.
Pendleton Fiber offers speeds between 50 and 200 megabits per second, which is fast enough to download a CD in 30 seconds.
Pendleton Fiber is a subsidiary of Wtechlink, an Internet service provider co-owned by Jordan McDonald.
Despite offering fiber optic Internet for more than three years, McDonald said Pendleton Fiber continues to add three to four new customers per day.
Pendleton Fiber now provides Internet for 1,250 residences and 200 businesses.
While some of Pendleton Fiber’s initial forays weren’t immediately profitable, McDonald said the amount of demand from the North Hill and McKay Creek neighborhoods has made the venture worthwhile.
“We’re definitely reaping the benefits now,” he said.
Additionally, the fiber service’s reliability means Wtechlink saves money on repair costs.
Eastern Oregon Telecom is newer to the fiber market but is starting to reap benefits of its own in Hermiston.
EOT CEO Joe Franell said the company started out conservatively, installing fiber access to 120 homes in the East Highland Avenue and downtown areas.
Demand for fiber meant EOT’s service continued to expand, with the company providing high-speed Internet for 750 homes in Hermiston and 1,000 businesses across Hermiston, Umatilla, McNary, Boardman and Irrigon.
Less than two years into offering fiber, EOT is breaking even on its investment, a development Franell not only attributes to consumer interest but the decision to buy fiber from Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies, which offers prices at a much lower rate than American suppliers.
Franell said there’s room for growth in the Hermiston fiber market, but EOT wants to expand smartly.
“I’m not going to build it and hope they come,” he said.
To get an idea of which areas want it most, Franell said EOT will launch a website that will allow neighborhoods to compete for fiber access.
Offering fiber Internet to rural customers isn’t unique to Wtechlink or EOT, but doing so without government subsidies is.
According to Forbes magazine, the federal government allocated $3.4 billion for rural broadband projects in 2011, including a $116 million financial package that went to the Vermont Telephone Co. to build 1,200 miles in the rural Green Mountain State.
Back in Pendleton and Hermiston, not every square foot within those cities has access to fiber — it’s much easier to install fiber cable in above-ground utilities as opposed to below ground.
But both Wtechlink and EOT have an eye toward the future, having installed fiber in new housing developments to complement standard utilities.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.