Idaho Falls Pilot Is a Go; Sign-ups Now Available for Fiber Connectivity

Idaho Falls residents in select areas are now able to tap into fast, affordable, reliable connectivity through their city’s fiber optic network. Idaho Falls Fiber (IFF) and Idaho Falls Power (IFP) recently announced that premises in three residential areas of the city can now sign-up to connect to the open access Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) network. 

Check out the IFF Fiber Service Areas Map.

With A Little Help From UTOPIA

Idaho Falls has operated Circa, a municipally owned dark fiber network for around eight years. The infrastructure has been managed by IFP to offer connectivity to local businesses and municipal facilities, but a few years ago, community leaders began investigating ways to use the resource for residential purposes.

After working with two separate consulting firms and reviewing options and recommendations, city leaders decided to move forward. Located across the Snake River from Ammon, Idaho Falls may have been inspired by the accolades Ammon has collected in developing their open access software defined network. With significant infrastructure in place via the Circa Network, a residential pilot program is a logical step toward improving connectivity for the entire community.

Idaho Falls leadership began collaborating with folks from UTOPIA Fiber, who they hired to design and manage the pilot. As in places such as Owensboro, Kentucky and Anacortes, Washington, the city chose to pursue the pilot to examine how FTTH might be received by residents, what technical issues might arise, and to help spread the word that high-quality Internet access would be available from the municipal utility.

"We'll see how the economics work out in this, what the, you know, support is within the community, support is within the neighborhoods," [General Manager of IFF and IFP Bear] Prairie said. "And then we'll have the conversation whether to broaden this out citywide in the early summer, with the city council making that decision." 

Prairie told KIDK that the city also had another concern:

"We really wanted to see what the ability was to run fiber infrastructure alongside our electrical infrastructure, both economically and feasibly...Can we use that same infrastructure for both types of wires and cables?" 

All Hail Competition

The fiber infrastructure will allow residential connectivity up to 1,000 Megabits per second (1 gigabit). Residents who want to connect will pay IFF a $30 per month infrastructure fee, which will appear on a resident’s utility bill. As an open access network, the infrastructure will host several ISPs and residents will have a choice of several, which will send a separate bill for services.

Currently, four ISPs offer Internet access via the network, each with a range of packages and prices; most advertise symmetrical service. Subscribers can obtain gigabit service from all four on the Idaho Falls infrastructure with rates from $48 per month to $69.95 per month and each offers lower tiers at 250 Mbps. In addition to the $30 infrastructure fee paid to IFF, subscribers who choose gigabit connections can expect to pay around $78 - $100 per month. Several of the ISPs offer VoIP and only one offers video for the time being.

A comprehensive side-by-side of offerings from the four Internet access providers working on the IFF network is available on the IFF website.

In a release Prairie stated:

“This is a milestone for Idaho Falls residents. We’ve had great response from local internet providers and we’re now ready to roll this program out to the public.  There has been a lot of support and interest from the community for this, so it’s an exciting time and we’re eager to start connecting customers.”

Watch Prairie discuss the project with East Idaho News: