BendBroadband will break ground next month on a 132-mile fiber ring that will serve up optical network infrastructure to rural cities in central Oregon once it's completed.

BendBroadband, a small but progressive cable operator in Oregon, is working toward bringing improved Internet access to the cities of La Pine, Madras, Prineville and Sunriver with the project. BendBroadband said the goal of the project was to bridge the gap that has existed between rural and urban areas of central Oregon.

BendBroadbandThe fiber ring project is BendBroadband's BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) initiative that was awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to extend broadband access into rural communities.

BendBroadband was awarded the initial grant in July 2010 in the amount of $6.3 million through the federally funded Broadband Technology Opportunities Program. BendBroadband said it would be using $1.9 million of those funds to complete the project.

From BTOP, the Central Oregon Fiber Alliance (COFA) was created, forming a partnership with the local communities of Madras, Prineville, Sunriver and La Pine, as well as key health, educational, public safety and business entities. COFA's goal is to create a comprehensive, regional 40 Gbps fiber ring and bring broadband connectivity to more regions of central Oregon, helping local businesses and providing a boost to the economy.

The project is seeking to provide high-speed connections from 100 Mbps to 1 Gbps to 25 community anchor institutions and to build direct fiber connections to area business parks and districts.

Frank Miller, BendBroadband's CTO and a participant in CED’s CTO roundtable earlier this year, provided additional details on the project via e-mail. The project details include: middle-mile infrastructure to Madras, Prineville, LaPine and Sunriver; last-mile fiber connectivity to community anchor tenants, such as hospitals, municipalities, and education and public safety entities, with optical Ethernet; and last-mile fiber connectivity to rural business via GEPON (Gigabit Ethernet Passive Optical Network.)

"The scope of the BTOP grant is to bring best of breed, affordable and reliable optical network infrastructure to rural cities in central Oregon," Miller wrote.

The fiber ring is slated to be finished by September of next year, which is well ahead of the July 2013 grant deadline. The project will start with fiber infrastructure being provided at Central Oregon Community College in Madras and Bend-La-Pine Schools.

BendBroadband said the fiber ring project would create approximately 75 jobs during construction and an estimated 115 permanent jobs as a result of the improved regional connectivity.