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32 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2017 FTTH DEPLOYMENT LS Networks Launches Connected Communities Project A middle-mile network provider in Oregon has a new mission: creating 25 rural gigabit communities. By Masha Zager / Broadband Communities M ore than a decade ago, five Oregon electric cooperatives and the economic development arm of the Coquille Indian Tribe joined forces to build a middle-mile fiber network. e original goal of the consortium, LS Networks, was not to deliver broadband services directly but to make it economical for others to do so. e company, whose shareholders are all nonprofit entities, views its mission as providing services before profit and using telecommunications "as a tool to bridge the communities that make the Pacific Northwest great," in the words of Bryan Adams, the director of sales and marketing. e network serves carriers that include long-distance and local telephone companies, wireless providers and independent cable operators as well as the communications divisions of some member companies. As time went on, the middle-mile network expanded throughout Oregon, rural Washington, Northern California and Idaho (it now has more than 7,500 route miles of fiber). True to the company's mission, the network spurred economic development throughout the area. ough still primarily a wholesaler, LS Networks began to directly serve state and local government agencies, schools, hospitals and some businesses. In 2012, it started building fiber to cell towers and now reaches more than 500 of them. Because cell towers tend to be located near clusters of residences and small businesses, this opened up yet another opportunity. Adams explains, "e network is now built out to the point where we can, with fairly minimal costs, start building larger local distribution networks in the communities we serve – not just for business customers but for residential customers in underserved communities." So in October 2016, the company announced an ambitious new goal: deploying gigabit FTTH networks throughout 25 rural communities in Oregon and Washington over a five-year period. rough this "Connected Communities" project, LS Networks will offer 100 Mbps for $40 and and 1 Gbps internet speeds for $70, providing advanced services in communities that desperately need them. e networks will all be open to additional providers. CONNECTING MAUPIN By the time the 25-city initiative was announced, the first city build – in Maupin, a city of about 400 in north-central Oregon – was already in progress. e Maupin project came about fortuitously. Mayor Lynn Ewing explains that the city, which was trying to obtain a high-speed network, secured a $410,000 grant from Business Oregon, a state agency, through a partnership with the QualityLife Intergovernmental Agency (QLife). It planned to use the funding, along with a smaller private grant, to build a fiber line from a Bonneville