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Port of Chehalis, Wash., Looks at Telecom Infrastructure Expansion

Officials are looking into the possibility of expanding the fiber optic line through its properties with a goal of improving Internet connectivity for tenants at the port and Chehalis Industrial Park.

by Christopher Brewer, The Chronicle / March 2, 2015

(Tribune News Service) -- As more and more companies look to the Internet to increase productivity and connect better with the world at large, one local port is taking a look into supercharging its connection to the information superhighway.

Port of Chehalis officials are looking into the possibility of expanding fiber optic line through its properties with a goal of greater broadband Internet connectivity for tenants at the port and Chehalis Industrial Park.

Port CEO Randy Mueller joined with commissioners and representatives from broadband Internet service company Rainier Connect to discuss the idea during Thursday’s port commission meeting, providing a glimpse of what they hope the future could be a way to better serve the port’s tenants and attract new business.

Mueller said the discussion was brought about by some challenges new industrial park tenant JR Furniture initially faced with bringing Internet connectivity to their new digs on Maurin Road when it moved to Chehalis last year.

“Telecommunications infrastructure is important, and right now it’s just as important as water and sewer for some folks,” Mueller said.

Two fiber optic lines currently serve the Port of Chehalis, with one running along Bishop Road and another one serving properties at Maurin Road, but terminating at JR Furniture’s building. Mueller showed the public a map of a proposal that showed the entirety of the port and the Chehalis Industrial Park blanketed with nearly 100 percent coverage, an increase from about a third of the entire industrial park being served right now.

“There’s a cost to putting it in,” Mueller added. “It’s not necessarily your $99 installation of cable at home.”

Fiber optic lines have become an increasingly common method of Internet connectivity through the United States. Proponents of the service say the elements have little to no effect on the cable, unlike copper wire, which has historically been used in telecommunications. A notable local example of a company offering fiber optic Internet is ToledoTel, which secured a $19 million U.S. Department of Agriculture loan to upgrade its systems serving Toledo and the surrounding area.

In many instances, fiber optic Internet can carry some of the fastest Internet speeds available for consumers. Internet giant Google has moved forward with offering its Google Fiber service that claims up to 100 times faster Internet speeds than conventional broadband, with their service having initially come available in Kansas City, Missouri, and expanding to Atlanta, Nashville and Austin, Texas, among others.

Rainier Connect customer care manager Amanda Singleton told the port commission that Rainier Connect is the only company currently offering fiber Internet in the area of the port. Singleton said the company has identified five other customers they would have to build the network out to should they opt for service.

“It would allow things we haven’t even dreamed up yet for productivity,” Singleton added.

Rainier Connect estimated the cost to expand the fiber-optic network throughout the port at $45,000, with a monthly connection cost for whoever decides to utilize the service.

“For the net gain in covering the whole property, in my personal opinion it would be a fairly small investment,” port commissioner Mark Anders said of the cost. “I think it could be a value to everyone.”

Mueller said he would run the idea of the fiber optic expansion by members of the Chehalis Industrial Commission, who operate the Chehalis Industrial Park — much of which is adjacent to or near the Port of Chehalis. The port’s CEO said he believes the possibility of broadening the port’s fiber connection could be attractive to companies moving in, and provide a benefit to companies already calling the port home.

“It’s my opinion that this is a worthwhile investment,” Mueller told the commission. “I think it’s an incremental increase in value (for the port), and I anticipate coming back to you with a more formed-up package.”

©2015 The Chronicle (Centralia, Wash.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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