By Adam Duvernay
New money has been made available for bringing to Springfield the same kind of high-speed internet available in downtown Eugene.
US Ignite, a nonprofit funded by the National Science Foundation, recently awarded a nearly $100,000 grant to be used in replicating the process that established EUGNet, the fiber optic network that connects buildings in downtown Eugene. The Technology Association of Oregon proposal that secured the grant suggests construction of the Springfield expansion could take place between June and August.
“With Springfield’s renaissance and downtown explosion, it’s a really great next step to creating economic opportunity for residents and businesses, small and large,” said Lane County Economic Development Manager Austin Ramirez. “If we’re talking about economic opportunity and equity, it’s hard to find something better than open-access fiber infrastructure like this.”
The grant is designed to build a fiber optic internet hub in Springfield that would connect to the hub in Eugene that is the central node for EUGNet.
There are more than 80 Eugene buildings connected to EUGNet, which does not expand beyond downtown but was built in a way that leaves open the possibility for wider connection in the future. The Eugene Water and Electric Board owns the fiber optic cables, and they all are routed through an underground hub facility in downtown owned and managed by the Lane Council of Governments. Core pieces of that hub facility infrastructure were donated to Eugene by US Ignite.
The proposal for the US Ignite grant calls for building a similar hub in Springfield and connecting it with the Eugene hub. The connection would give Springfield a site from which to build out a fiber optic network that its residents and businesses then could use.
Construction of that facility would cost about $15,000 and it would cost about $63,000 to fill it with equipment, according to the TAO proposal. The money Springfield spends on infrastructure would be up for reimbursement through the US Ignite grant, according to former TAO Vice President Matt Sayre, who wrote the grant proposal.
It’s not yet been decided how the money would be spent, according to Amber Fossen, City of Springfield public information officer.
“We are only just assessing this opportunity, and it is something our elected bodies still need to review and discuss,” Fossen said in an email.
EUGNet is not an internet service provider but rather an open-access internet source to which ISPs can pay to connect in order to offer their customers access to the high speeds that fiber optic cables provide. Springfield access would work in much the same way.
The grant for expanding fiber optic connection into Springfield was one of four issued this month by US Ignite. Austin, Texas; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Lafayette, Louisiana, also received grants to replicate successful digital programs in their cities.
“Over the last several years, the National Science Foundation has invested in fundamental research that is enabling smart and connected communities throughout the U.S., including identifying pathways for scaling and sustaining the results that are emerging,” Erwin Gianchandani, NSF’s acting assistant director for computer and information science and engineering, said in a news release.