Lebanon will be the first in the mid-Willamette Valley to provide enterprise-grade fiber-optic Internet to every home within city limits.
The city signed an agreement Nov. 9 with Corvallis-based PEAK Internet that will allow the company to begin covering Lebanon with fiber lines in 2023.
PEAK has been planning to bring fiber to Lebanon for nearly a decade, installing dozens of miles of fiber lines in separate projects to Lacomb and Sweet Home. Proponents say infrastructure can attract businesses and spur economic growth.
“Lebanon is a donut hole for us,” said Rick Petersen, the company’s CEO and president.
Petersen is PEAK wireless in Crawfordsville – the company offers download speeds of 3 to 30 megabits per second via radio receivers with a clear line of sight to the transmission tower.
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But in Lebanon, Petersen saw the potential for something faster.
PEAK once provided free broadband. High-speed internet was installed on wireless routers around the city, allowing users to connect computers and smartphones.
A 2006 study estimated that Lebanon was one of about 60 countries that offered city-wide internet.
“It was great,” Petersen said — fast enough for casual users. “But wouldn’t it be great if we had fiber in the city?” he said.
Lebanon ended free Wi-Fi in 2013.
The company is still determining exactly what connection speeds PEAK will offer residents and at what prices.
“I can tell you they’re going to be pretty competitive with Comcast,” said Brian Fagan, who coordinates the company’s customer experience.
PEAK offers download speeds of 100 and 250 megabits per second and 1 gigabit per second. Download speeds are 20, 100 and 500 mbps.
Gigabit internet is typically the source of business-grade internet in the mid-Willamette Valley. In Lebanon, PEAK laid fiber lines at Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine-Northwest.
City officials said fiber internet was one of the factors that prompted California-based Pamona University to build in Linn County.
Fagan described Lebanon as a city that embraced economic expansion.
“City government is very open to economic development,” he said.
Increasingly, gigabit fiber is seen as a residential internet option.
Lebanon’s strategic plan identified high-speed internet as a way to future-proof the city, Petersen said. The Oregon Cascades Western Council of Governments has identified high-speed Internet access as critical to the rural state.
Then the global coronavirus pandemic showed ISPs, workers and employers that people could complete projects and attend meetings from home.
“The need was identified before COVID, and COVID just put an exclamation point on it,” Petersen said.
In addition to receiving CARES funding, the Coronavirus Relief, Assistance and Economic Security Act is paying Lacomb tens of miles of fiber network, another $13.2 million in loan and grant funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. County between Sweet Home and Lebanon.
Fagan and Petersen said fiber connections would make Lebanon more attractive to people who work from home.
“If you’re a work-from-home user and you experience interruptions, your boss will probably ask you to come back to the office,” Petersen said.
The company provided DSL through CenturyLink, but will now go after municipal bond financing to build its own infrastructure “instead of relying on legacy copper infrastructure,” he said.
PEAK is the broadband arm of Philomath-based Consumers Power Inc. and will offer fiber in Lebanon like Santiam Fiber.
The company has signed on a contractor to lead a $40 million effort to connect nearly 8,000 buildings to fiber by 2025, Petersen said.
PEAK’s deal is non-exclusive — it will be one broadband provider in the city where customers can also get Xfinity, Comcast Corp.’s broadband service; and Lumen Technologies Internet, formerly known as CenturyLink.
The city’s information technology director said it’s important that Lebanon’s existing providers don’t “get overwhelmed” by the incoming fibers.
“It’s frustrating when you only have one option,” Hurst said.
Alex Powers (o) covers business, environment and health for Mid-Valley Media. Call 541-812-6116 or email Alex.Powers@lee.net.