Spectrum to explain rural broadband plan

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Jul. 18—Spectrum is planning to expand its rural broadband network into the Applegate and other outlying areas of Jackson County, and a community meeting is scheduled Wednesday where interested residents can learn more about the project.

"This is a good start," State Rep. Pam Marsh said Monday of the company's rural expansion project.

Marsh, a Democrat, will speak at the event, described as an ice cream social at 2 p.m. Wednesday, hosted by Spectrum at Applegate River Lodge, 15100 Highway 238 .

The event will describe new broadband services coming to the area, and offer an opportunity for people who live in the Applegate area to find out whether their addresses are among the lucky ones targeted for service.

The project is described as an expansion of Spectrum's fiber-optic network, bringing gigabit broadband to more than 4,000 homes and small businesses in Jackson County, according to a press release Spectrum sent out Monday.

Marsh said the expansion is set to focus on the Applegate area, but in Spectrum's expansion, all things are not equal, but almost arbitrary.

"The nature of broadband has been a little scrappy and mysterious for potential customers because providers are bidding on the addresses they want to cover," Marsh explained.

Spectrum, a subsidiary of Charter, applied for and won $1.2 billion through the Federal Communication Commission's reverse auction funding program of 2019 and 2020 — the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund.

Spectrum said in the release it will spend the sum across 24 states to bring internet access to digitally dark rural areas.

Marsh said this expansion won't cover everybody, and it won't solve everyone's internet problems in the Applegate and rural Jackson County. Because of the way broadband is expanding, the coverage may come in a patchwork pattern, but Marsh said her vision is that it will come.

"One way or another, I think our goal should be that everybody will be covered. That's my goal anyway," she said.

Those who are not among the first 4,000 should not despair, Marsh said. More federal money is on the way. Federal dollars from the Infrastructure Act are available to further expand rural access to broadband, but this money will be organized and structured from the state level.

Marsh said they are structuring a process for local entities to help decide where and how internet is expanded in rural Oregon.

Seth Kaplan, executive director of A Greater Applegate, and Danielle Wade, Spectrum area vice president, also will speak at the Spectrum event Wednesday.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Morgan Rothborne at mrothborne@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4487. Follow her on Twitter @MRothborne.