With the completion of a $2 million high-density fiber optic broadband network, the rural community of Maupin is now among the state’s most competitive when it comes to internet access.

The network can provide speeds of 1 gigabit per second (gbps) per customer—the fastest broadband service available in the Pacific Northwest—vastly improving the city’s economic and educational opportunities. Fiber optic networks send information via small, flexible strands of glass that transmit light, which allows data to be sent faster than traditional cable.

The technology is also less susceptible to conditions such as power outages and interference from power lines, and can withstand temperature fluctuations better than traditional cable.

While cable networks still have the advantage of accessibility, fiber is becoming more widespread as the benefits far outweigh the cost, which has gradually fallen. The city of Maupin is one demonstration of fiber’s extending reach.

“Fiber is basically future-proof, so if 20 years from now the speeds demanded are twice as high, the fiber network can keep up,” said Maupin Mayor Lynn Ewing. “That’s another benefit.”

The project, which took more than three years and financing from seven partners—including more than $935,000 from the state—is a boon to the Central Oregon town of 430, better known for its access to whitewater rafting and fly-fishing along the Lower Deschutes River than its high-speed internet.

“We had DSL before this that ran about 3 mbps and wireless that ran 5 mbps,” said Mayor Ewing. “There are about 50 homes or businesses left to connect in town, including city hall. This week I tried downloading some files while connected to the city hall network, but it was taking a long time. I took my laptop home, where we were connected to the fiber network, and they downloaded in less than a minute.”

Before Maupin set out to build its own fiber optic network, the town had some of the state’s slowest upload and download speeds, putting businesses, job seekers and kids at a disadvantage. The city partnered with QLife Network, an inter-governmental agency that’s helping facilitate reliable, cost-effective, open-access links to fiber optic, and Portland-based LS Networks, to design and install the new system.

Maupin received financial assistance from the Oregon State Legislature, thanks to legislation introduced by former State Representative John Huffman of The Dalles, the Oregon Regional Solutions office, and QLife Network. The network was also made possible by investment from private partners, including LS Networks, Gorge.net, Google and the Gorge Health Council.

“This is a total game-changer for Maupin,” said Ewing. “Our new high-speed broadband network significantly improves the professional and learning opportunities for residents while luring visitors to stay longer and even consider moving here.”

Initial funding for the network was secured in 2015 and design, facilitated by QLife Network, began in 2016. Full build-out was completed in early 2019. Local service providers, Gorge.net and LS Networks worked through the winter to complete connections to individual buildings. South Wasco County School District, White River Health District, Southern Wasco County Library, City Hall, and more than 300 homes and businesses now have full access to the network, starting at $40 for 100 Mbps speed and $70 for 1 Gbps.

“Maupin remained steadfast in its pursuit of attaining higher-quality internet for its residents,” says Byron Cantrall, CEO of LS Networks. “Thanks to a combination of local champions and numerous partners willing to sit at the table together, Maupin now has broadband service that rivals the speeds enjoyed by those in Oregon’s biggest cities.”

In December, Governor Kate Brown signed Executive Order 18-31 to establish the Oregon Broadband Office, citing access to high-speed internet as an economic and equity issue. With an increasing number of cities and service providers trying to work out how to bring broadband to their residents and customers, Maupin serves as an example for what can happen when public-private partnerships go well.

“The new high-speed fiber network in Maupin is proof that no town is too small or too remote to make sure their community is connected,” Brown said. “It will allow businesses in Maupin to grow and add new jobs while helping the school, health care providers, and local government to provide quality services. I appreciate all of the community support, including from the state’s Regional Solutions team, that improved access to high-speed internet for more Oregonians.”

Maupin’s broadband network, more affordable housing prices and safe neighborhoods are attracting young professionals, business owners and families to settle there.

“I have a dynamic and demanding work schedule, and I absolutely rely on high-speed internet to do my job,” says Michael Jones, director of research at San Francisco-based Salesforce. “But when I’m not working, I want to spend time getting to know my neighbors and being on the river.” He and his wife are in the process of moving from Portland to Maupin, where he will work remotely most of the time. “I think the word will get out and more telecommuters and tech companies will follow.”

In addition to its new broadband network, the city is beautifying its downtown, improving pedestrian walkways, and building a new 3,000-square-foot library as part of a new 6,000-square-foot Civic Center.

“We say out here, ‘Things are hoppin’ in Maupin’,” Ewing said. “With 1 gigabit per second and numerous construction projects underway, that’s definitely true!”

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