County upgrades internet infrastructure

Whitman County fills need for better services with fiber optic cables

ANDREA GONZALEZ, Evergreen reporter

The Port of Whitman County is investing in fiber optic cables for the internet infrastructure which will improve network connectivity throughout the county. 

Kara Riebold, Port of Whitman County chief operating officer, said the port decided to rebuild the internet infrastructure because there was a need in the area to have options for better services. This will hopefully reduce the costs for providers and benefit internet users, she said. 

Joe Poire, Port of Whitman County executive director, said fiber optic cables are cables that are created by melting glass into an optical shape lens and shooting light from it. This then adjusts the data stream into the light. 

Poire said using a fiber optic cable allows the light to move long distances without having to regenerate the signal. 

Riebold said the cables can be used to provide access to the internet, phone, television and other data services. She said investing in fiber optic cables is a better way to provide services and update the infrastructure. 

Poire said the cables will replace the old aging copper wire and electronics.

“You cannot deliver the high-speed internet over that type of wire. It just physically cannot work so we have to replace all of that wire,” he said. 

He said the price could range from $5 to $10 million and the project could take 5 to 10 years.

“People don’t have the money to invest so it would go a lot faster if people have the money,” Poire said. “We have to make the money on an annual basis.”

Riebold said the original fiber optic cables were built in the early 2000s. 

“It can go on for years and years it can go on for over a decade,” Poire said. 

He said the port used to be divided into six different telephone companies. This meant that calling from one town to another was considered a long-distance phone call, which would cost people as much as 30 cents a minute.

“We need a lot of new equipment to make it so that everybody has high-speed internet,” he said.