March 23, 2021 — The COVID-19 pandemic has caused Americans to realign their lives in many areas and in many unexpected ways. The changes that have resulted from this have rippled through many aspects of people’s lives, including the manner in which they meet, learn and generally communicate.
The shift from working from office to home has been especially significant, as well as the change for students now learning from home.
One of the results of this change has been the realization by school districts, businesses and governments of the need for a secure and reliable internet connection between employers, educators, students and employees.
Unfortunately, in many rural areas of Lane County and in some of the communities around Florence, there is either no internet access or limited broadband width below what is necessary to remotely learn or work effectively.
That will change in the coming years thanks to a contract awarded to Florence internet, fiber optics and security firm Hyak.
With the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has undertaken a nationwide program to accelerate the construction of the infrastructure required to provide reliable internet access to rural communities nationwide — and Hyak has been selected to fulfill that goal in our area.
Hyak was formed in 2017 by the merger of Siuslaw Broadband and Full Spectrum Computers and has become the area leader in providing expertise, installation and maintenance for computer systems of all types.
“This represents a significant investment in the outlying areas of Florence and Mapleton that we’re excited to make,” said Neil Ecker, COO of Hyak. “Federal support of these high-cost areas means we’re now able to deliver our gigabit fiber internet to some of the most rural portions of western Lane County.”
Hyak was awarded $1.6 million to serve areas of the Siuslaw region outside of Florence and Mapleton, such as North Fork Road, Indian Creek, Swisshome, Brickerville and Sweet Creek Road.
“These areas are generally served by satellite only today or limited DSL that no longer meets the definition of broadband,” Ecker said.
Hyak CEO Robbie Wright believes the decision to provide substantial funding for this effort is warranted now more than ever.
“The RDOF program is a great solution for rural America and our community to create opportunities for families who live in our outlying areas,” he said. “Access to quality internet has become even more important with distance learning and remote work as the current pandemic continues to shape how our rural communities can operate.”
Wright said the company wants to be a part of helping build a community where youth can choose to live and work — things not possible without addressing the need for affordable housing and quality internet.
The FCC has, among many other agencies, the responsibility for overseeing the nation’s airwaves and internet infrastructure. The commission has moved aggressively since the onset of the pandemic to improve rural opportunities to utilize resources which may only be available remotely.
“Through a two-phase reverse auction mechanism, the FCC will direct up to $20.4 billion over 10 years to finance up to gigabit speed broadband networks in unserved rural areas, connecting millions more American homes and businesses to digital opportunity,” the FCC said in its announcement of the contract awards. “Without access to broadband, rural Americans cannot participate in the digital economy or take advantage of the opportunities broadband brings for better education, healthcare and civic and social engagement. In recent years, the commission has made tremendous strides toward increasing the availability of broadband in rural America. But more work remains to be done, and the RDOF is a key part of the FCC’s continuing efforts.”
The project timeline allows for a six-year window of completion, but Wright is hoping to have the work completed before that deadline.
The initial stages of the project have begun with preparatory work being done in advance of Hyak beginning to install and construct the extensive system, which will be needed to run fiber optics and the supporting equipment needed to monitor the system.
“We have quite a bit of work in front of us,” said Wright. “We’re looking at more than 80 miles of fiber to be deployed with requirements to be built out to 40 percent within three years, and 100 percent in six years. While we’d like to expedite those timelines, some of these areas are pretty remote with some challenging aspects of their build.”
In addition, Hyak has opened its new office location at 1535 Ninth St. For more information, visit hyak.co.