Lite fiber and faster internet is coming to the City of Menan as early as this week.
FyberCom cofounder and CEO Jared Stowell said Menan will be among the first in the area to receive fiber optic internet.
“This’ll be the first true fiber optic gigabit city in Jefferson County, and probably one of the first in all of east Idaho,” he said. “And it’s just a small town.”
In June, the Menan City Council approved a franchise agreement with the FyberCom, allowing the company to move forward with fiber installation throughout the city. The installation would come at no expense to Menan, Mayor Tad Haight said. He said installation began immediately following the Fourth of July.
“The Fourth of July is really their flag wave off day,” he said July 3.
Stowell said the plan is for all residents to have the opportunity to have fiber within two years.
“Our goal is to run fiber to every home in the city that wants it,” he said.
Stowell said fiber installation will start on the east side of the city and move westward. Current FyberCom customers will have the opportunity to hook up at no cost while non-customers can opt in for a $150 hook-up fee.
Stowell said he believes one to four houses will get hooked up each day, depending on the weather and other complications that may arise.
“That’s our goal, one to four homes,” he said. “There’ll be days and weeks where we might not even get one home.”
As homes are hooked up, they will have access to faster internet speeds, up to one gigabit, Stowell said. Currently, he said the internet speed FyberCom provides is up to 50 megabits. This means the internet with fiber would be about 20 times faster. Stowell said he estimates 25% of the city will have the option to have fiber by the end of 2019, and said about 50% will by next July.
Stowell said the company will let customers know when the company begins installing in their area. He said those who choose to have fiber can still choose to stay with their current package at the same internet speeds, but having the fiber installed to their homes would make it easier to upgrade to faster speeds later on if they decide to.
“Their speeds won’t change, but nor will their price,” he said.
Prices for faster internet packages will be announced shortly, Stowell said.
City buildings will also receive free internet for the life of the franchise agreement, Stowell said.
Haight said the current internet in the city is slow, and said he thinks faster speeds will improve the quality of life for residents. More and more, he said, people are relying on internet for school, work and entertainment.
“A lot of people now work from home, and their employer might be across the world or across the country,” Stowell said. “And without good internet connectivity, they wouldn’t get that job.”
Haight said sometimes, stay-at-home parents have started employment online, teaching English to Chinese children, and upon moving to Menan, found they could not do that and had to move away.
Haight said some people did have concerns high-speed internet would attract more people to Menan.
“People are not thrilled about it coming to Menan because they’re afraid it will make it more attractive to move to Menan,” he said.
The idea that fiber may attract people to Menan could be true. Stowell said research has been done that shows fiber in cities raises property values and attracts people and businesses.
Haight said other concerns arose when a large fiber optic line in Jefferson County was cut. He said people worried that would happen in Menan, and the city would have to pay a large amount of money to fix it. Haight said FyberCom representatives alleviated those concerns by explaining Menan would not have those larger lines. Instead, it will have smaller, more easily replaceable lines, he said.
“It’s not that big of a deal and it’s not super expensive,” he said about a line being cut in Menan.
Haight said the city council initially looked at possibly having a city-run fiber optic department, like Ammon has done. However, he said in the small town of less than 1,000, that was not feasible.
“The Ammon model requires massive capital input,” he said. “And we do not have massive capital input.”
Stowell said that is part of the reason FyberCom chose Menan as one of the first cities in the area to install fiber optic lines in. He said another reason is a large portion of Menan residents are FyberCom customers.
“Those smaller towns, they have a hard time bringing together capital to build their infrastructure, so we like to help small towns where we can,” he said.
Stowell said FyberCom plans on having agreements similar to the one with Menan with other small cities. He said similar projects will be announced as they develop.