Direct Communications Upgrades Cable Network to new DOCSIS 3 System

Direct Communications Cable in Idaho completed a system-wide network upgrade over the course of the Summer of 2014 that will allow residents in all cable franchise towns served by the company to receive up to 20 megabit-per-second internet speeds.

The towns served by Directcom Cable include AberdeenBancroftDowneyFish HavenGeorgetownGraceLavaMcCammonMontpelierParis and Preston

More speed means more fun online.

More speed means more fun online.

The network upgrade was specifically a change from the old Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) 1.0 to a newer DOCSIS 3.0 network specification. The DOCSIS 3 equipment allows an increase in data transmission speeds (both upstream and downstream).

Brian Black, Senior Network Administrator for Direct Communications, explained that the upgrade required a complete equipment swap in all of the fiber huts. “We had to purchase three new CMTS’s to support DOCSIS 3, which cost about $50,000 each.” (Cable Internet delivery includes two primary components: a cable modem, located at each customer premises, and a cable modem termination system (CMTS) located at the Cable TV headend.)  

For existing customers, anyone requesting speeds above the previous top speed of 10Mb would need a new DOCSIS 3.0 modem. All new customers automatically receive a new DOCSIS 3.0 modem at the time of install. 

Black said: “The real difference between a DOCSIS 3.0 system and the old DOCSIS 1 system is that a DOCSIS 3.0 modem can connect to multiple channels at once, whereas the old modem could only connect to a single path. So in theory, customers will now have four times the bandwidth available to them at any given time. Right now each of our customers are set up to connect to two downstream channels, and to four upstream channels, but once we have completed the next planned system-wide upgrade to all digital cable TV, each customer with be connecting to four downstream channels, and to four upstream channels.” 

This explains part of the motivation for the company to migrate to an all-digital cable TV system, because besides improving the quality of the picture and number of available TV channels, moving to all digital TV delivery will also free up more bandwidth for the growing customer demand for faster internet speed. 

Brian Black, Senior Network Administrator for Direct Communications in Idaho

Brian Black, Network Administrator for Direct Communications in Idaho

“What this upgrade to  DOCSIS 3.0 means now for all customers is basically more bandwidth available for everyone, and more consistent speeds, especially during peak hours in the evenings when everyone wants to get online at home to stream video, or catch up with their friends on Facebook,” said Black.

“In theory, I suppose we could deliver speeds up to 50Mb or 100Mb to a single customer now on the coax cable network, but really our goal with this upgrade is to make sure we can deliver the speeds we have already sold to customers, and keep up with the customer growth. We feel pretty good about being able to deliver a solid 20Mb to everyone in town, so we want to keep an eye on that and see where the growth takes us before we start selling even higher speeds. “

Direct Communications has experienced three straight years of over 20% growth per year in customer subscriptions, as residents in small towns in Idaho adopt high-speed internet in increasing numbers, and keeping up with the demand has kept Black and his co-workers busy. Black is very pleased with how the new DOCSIS 3 network is performing.

“It’s been a huge change, and I am very happy with the results. The network is just much more stable, and people have responded by using their internet service a lot more already. We have seen internet usage double in some towns like Preston since we did the upgrade, which is great because it means people trust their internet more, have higher expectations now, and are turning to their internet service more for things like entertainment.”

“Our next step is to obviously move the Cable TV service to an digital head end, which will hopefully happen by the end of this year, free up more channels, and then keep improving our network through deploying more fiber nodes throughout the neighborhoods, and splitting up the network to make sure we can always stay ahead of the demand for bandwidth.”

Note: Aberdeen has not yet been upgraded to Docsis 3, but is on Docsis 2.0.

The News-Examiner- Directcom to Offer First 100 Mbps Residential Broadband Service in Idaho

Published Sep 19, 2012, by The News-Examiner in Montpelier, Idaho.

Directcom Customer Newsletter -Idaho – Fall 2012

The Directcom Connection- Customer Newsletter

The Directcom Connection- Customer Newsletter September 2012

Here are a few updates about how we have been involved in your community this summer:

Directcom to Offer First 100 Mbps Residential Broadband Service in Idaho

Direct Communications will become the first major internet service provider in Idaho to offer 100 Mbps service to residential customers, when they roll out a 100Mb package to customers starting this month.

Fiber Optic Cable means more speed.

These unprecedented speeds have been made possible by the expansion of Direct Communications fiber-to-the-home service, which the company began installing in 2006 to a limited number of new homes, where it made more sense to install new optic fiber cable rather than copper lines. However, over the past two years, Directcom has begun a systematic upgrade of all the lines in their telephone exchange areas, replacing aging copper lines with new fiber optic cable all the way to individual customer homes. Once the fiber is in place, there is unlimited potential for more speed. 100Mb is about as much as most modern consumer-grade electronics equipment can handle.

Jeremy Smith, General Manager for Direct Communications operations in Idaho, explained why the company was aggressively pursuing converting to an all-fiber network: “I see fiber optic cable as being non-negotiable to ensure the economic future of rural America, not just for our customers but also for us to stay relevant as a communications provider. I simply don’t agree with the current Federal Administration’s philosophy that rural Americans don’t need as much speed as people in cities. Everybody needs good internet service; in fact I would argue that rural folks need high speed internet even more than their city counterparts because we are so remote, and fiber is the only way you can push a good broadband signal out far enough to reach all of our customers. Having access to unlimited broadband is the future to both economic development and personal educational opportunity. Someday, each home that wants to be part of the global information economy will probably require minimum speeds of 100 Mbps. We just wanted to get a head start.”

READ MORE…

Watch More Football on ESPN3

More Football is on ESPN3

Have you tried ESPN3 yet? Just click on the ESPN3 link from our homepage to start watching. This is a fantastic complimentary feature that now comes included with your Directcom Internet subscription. Direct Communications is the only Internet Service Provider in Southeast Idaho that gives customers access to ESPN3. ESPN3.com delivers more than 3,500 live online events a year from your favorite sports through an easy-to-use online interface. Features of the website include the ability to watch multiple games simultaneously, get real-time stats and scoreboards, and live chat for interacting with friends and other fans. ESPN3 will stream over 90 college football games during September, over 50 of which are exclusive. This fall ESPN3 will include games from BYU, Utah, Boise State and USU. Another great feature of ESPN3 is the ability to replay games on demand anytime, and the replays include very convenient bookmarks so that you can skip to all of the important plays. See the month’s schedule at https://blog.directcom.com/2012/08/20/college-football-on-espn3-this-september/

Arbon Fiber-to-the-Home Project Complete

This spring, Direct Communications engineers completed the upgrade of Arbon Valley from traditional copper telephone lines to Fiber-to-the-Home, enabling every resident in Arbon to receive broadband access.

The company’s fiber to the home rollout in Arbon began in the summer of 2009, and since then, Directcom crews have been working around the clock, laying fiber optic cable to all of the homes in the Arbon Valley. Even the very remote homes, from those miles up in the mountains to down the valley, can now receive better high-speed internet service than is available in most cities in the USA. The company began with Arbon because this exchange area had always been the most difficult to serve with traditional DSL over copper, and thus had the fewest broadband subscribers.

Direct Communications buried 158 miles of fiber optic cable in Arbon Valley, bringing fiber to about 90 homes.

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager for Direct Communications in Idaho, shows a typical Calix ONT that is installed on the side of a home to convert the fiber light signal to Ethernet and phone service.

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager stated: “Arbon was a good starting point for us because it was so open, the construction was straightforward, and there weren’t a lot of other utilities to worry about running into. Also, we had a lot of customers there in Arbon that simply could not receive any internet signal before, because the farms and homes were so spread out. Fiber was the solution. It’s been good to hear customers tell us things like: ‘We tried streaming Netflix for the first time ever last night—that was pretty cool.’”

CLICK TO READ MORE…

This story was also published in the  Idaho State Journal, Sep 12, 2012.

“Arbon Valley just became a lot less remote thanks to an upgrade of its phone system to fiber optics. Every resident in Arbon now is able to receive broadband access.”

Click on the link below to read the ISJ article.

http://www.idahostatejournal.com/members/article_0c6e26ce-fca1-11e1-887a-001a4bcf887a.html

Good job to all the techs and crew involved, including Jason Garner, Brent Moss (now retired) Brad Medinger, Lucas McHargue, Phil Pratt, Steven Robinson, and the many others who invested several years of their lives working through mud, snow and wind to bring fiber broadband to the folks in Arbon.

Refer-a-friend and get $100

Refer a friend and get $100.

As families head back-to-school this month, people will be thinking seriously about their internet service reliability, and now may be a good opportunity for you to tell your friends about the superior quality of Direct Communications High-Speed Internet, and give them your referral card.If they sign up for Directcom Broadband, you will receive a $100 credit, and your friend will get a month of service FREE. Refer as many friends as you like—you may never have to pay for internet service again. Download a refer-a-friend card here.

Join us on Facebook.

Direct Communications has a Facebook page exclusively for our Idaho customers, and we want you to join our group. Facebook is a great way for you to stay in touch with us for upcoming changes, immediate notifications, instant updates, specials and free stuff, and helps us keep in touch with what our customers need. A lot of improvements that we have made over the past couple of years have come from customer suggestions on facebook, which we welcome.

Like our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/directcom

Direct Communications at your county fair

Rachel and her steer with Kip Wilson at the Power County Fair 4H Auction.

This summer Directcom set up booths at the South Bannock County Fair in Downey, the Franklin County Fair in Preston, the Caribou County Fair in Grace, and the Bear Lake County Fair in Montpelier. We also supported the 4H program at the Power County Fair. We enjoyed being in your home towns, seeing your artwork, crafts, and even judging Apple Pie contests; meeting our customers, talking to local residents about our service and fiber optic cable network construction throughout these towns, and handing out candy, Frisbees and t-shirts. We also tried something new this year, and constructed a money/coupon wind booth, which we called our “Cash Cave.” Customers could step inside the Cave and had 30 seconds to grab as many bills or money-saving coupons as they could. We had several new customers, and 14 current customers, win free service in our cash cave, including one who grabbed a YEAR of FREE service. Come and see us next year again at the fair.Read more about our involvement at your fair at https://blog.directcom.com/2012/09/13/why-we-love-county-fairs/

New Outages Mailing List

Wehave a new Idaho Outages Mailing List, where we can make you aware of any upcoming maintenance outages via email. To subscribe to this list, please visit http://support.directcom.com/lists/?p=subscribe&id=1

If you previously subscribed to this list last year, please do so again, as this application has been recently modified and you will need to re-register your email to get onto the new list.

Directcom Completes Arbon Fiber-to-the-Home Project

This spring, Direct Communications engineers completed the upgrade of Arbon Valley from traditional copper telephone lines to Fiber-to-the-Home, enabling every resident in Arbon to receive broadband access.

The company’s fiber to the home rollout in Arbon began in the summer of 2009, and since then, Directcom crews have been working around the clock, laying fiber optic cable to all of the homes in the Arbon Valley. Even the very remote homes, from those miles up in the mountains to down the valley, can now receive better high-speed internet service than is available in most cities in the USA. The company began with Arbon because this exchange area had always been the most difficult to serve with traditional DSL over copper, and thus had the fewest broadband subscribers.

Direct Communications buried 158 miles of fiber optic cable in Arbon Valley, bringing fiber to about 90 homes.

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager stated: “Arbon was a good starting point for us because it was so open, the construction was straightforward, and there weren’t a lot of other utilities to worry about running into. Also, we had a lot of customers there in Arbon that simply could not receive any internet signal before, because the farms and homes were so spread out. Fiber was the solution. It’s been good to hear customers tell us things like: ‘We tried streaming Netflix for the first time ever last night—that was pretty cool.’”

Matt Farr, Engineer and Operations Manager for Direct Communications in Idaho, shows the new Calix ONT (Optical Network Terminal) that is installed on the side of a home to convert the fiber light signal to Ethernet and phone service.

There is no resistance in the fiber optic cable, unlike copper lines, so the signal can travel infinitely futher, because it’s light, not an electron flow. With fiber, Directcom can now serve more remote customers in rural areas like Arbon, who live many miles away from the central phone office with broadband products like ethernet, VOIP, video conferencing, home security systems, remote appliance management, and other IP-based apps, which will be vital to the future economies of rural areas. Fiber optics will open up whole new markets of people who previously were too far to pick up a DSL signal over copper.

Farr related that the residents of Arbon had been extremely cooperative during the construction, often helping out the crews, which had helped the project go smoothly.

“The farmers would let us park our equipment in their sheds or shops overnight so that things like the water trailer wouldn’t freeze; they would let us fill up with water from their pumps—the whole community was just really helpful. Larry Fitch and Monty Evans made room in their sheds for us on many a cold night.” He related that people were so excited to get internet service that they would go out of their way to help get the work completed quickly.

“Once, at the end of the season, we were stopped by a really bad snowstorm, and a resident from Garden Creek drove out in the snow to pick up our fiber splicer, and all his equipment, on her personal snowmobile, so that we could complete the fiber splicing at their home.

We had people working in some very remote areas in Arbon, and sometimes we would run out of gas. Ken Estep once came out when we were in trouble and gave us a full tank of gas from his farm tanks.

I also want to thank the County Road Crew for all their help—they were extremely responsive in issuing all the road permits and easements we needed, and were very easy to work with—we were able to coordinate our fiber and road construction schedules—we couldn’t have completed this project without them.”

Directcom used local Arbon electrician, Cody Evans, to help wire the homes internal communications lines so that they would be ready for a fiber ethernet connection, and also to connect the homes power to the fiber terminal battery backup. Unlike the old copper network terminal, the fiber electronics (called an Optical Network Terminal, or ONT) on the side of a home, needs a power supply, and that required new electrical wiring in most cases.

A friendly Arbon dog- photo by Jason Garner.

Lucas McHargue, Construction Supervisor, said he remembers those years working in Arbon consisting of long, sometimes lonely days, and each home they connected had a story to it. “I remember times when the snow was so deep on people’s driveways that even the backhoe couldn’t go through it, and we would have to move forward bucket by bucket, as I cleared the snow away. We met a lot of interesting people out there, and a lot of different dogs—some friendly, some not so friendly. People would call into the main office after we left their home and say: ‘Those guys deserve a raise,’ which I agreed with.”

Jason Garner, Rockland and Arbon Exchange Manager, who spent three years travelling to Arbon each day during this project, and personally spliced the cable to a lot of the homes, feels a real sense of accomplishment in completing the enormous job there. “We had a lot of good times together as a crew—it was good to be part of a team, all working together towards a single goal, and those years really drew us together. I want to thank everyone on the crew who put in so many hours to get this done, including Brent Moss (now retired) Lucas McHargue, Steven Robinson, Marshall Ralphs, Nathan Taysom, Allan Jones, Tim Lee, Brendon Mingo, Phil Pratt, and of course the techs back in the office like Brad Medinger and Austin Turley, who turned on the ONTs remotely, and so many others—this was a real team effort.”

Garner reported that one of his favorite memories from his years working in Arbon was getting to know each homeowner personally by name. “We were in every home. We met a lot of good people.  I always used to wonder how Brent knew every customer by name, and now I know—because he put in all the copper to those home decades  ago. Now it was my turn to meet them all during this fiber upgrade.”

Moose seen in Knox Canyon during daily commute to Arbon- photo by Jason Garner

Garner said they saw a lot of wildlife during the commute over the mountains between Rockland and Arbon, including his closest ever encounter with a moose.

Besides the direct access to high-speed internet from Direct Communications that will bring the benefits of faster broadband to residential customers and anchor institutions like Arbon Elementary School, the fiber will benefit the community in many other ways Directcom has connected fiber to two cell phone towers in the valley, which will increase coverage and data speeds for people using certain cell phones. Fiber in an area means better communications for everyone.

The Arbon area’s first telephone lines were laid by local farmers, who asked former Rockland Telephone Company owner, Joseph Lee May, to acquire the lines back in the 1950’s. He was able to connect the two exchange areas together using copper lines hung on poles. Arbon and Rockland are now connected by various buried fiber optic lines that run right over the mountains separating the valleys, and Arbon will become part of a route that transports a lot of data traffic around southeast Idaho for various major carriers.

When will the rest of Direct Communications customers be upgraded to fiber?

Farr explained: “We have a 5-year plan to basically convert all of our exchange areas from Bear Lake to Rockland to 100% fiber to the home. Arbon is complete. We started on Rockland this year, and will be completely upgraded to fiber over the next 2 years there. Bear Lake is the biggest project and that will take longer, but we already have a few subdivisions there completely converted to fiber, including The Reserve and Cottle Communities in Fish Haven. This summer we also buried new duct to about 30 homes in Canyon Estates in Fish Haven, and we hope to complete splicing the fiber there by the end of this year.”

Fiber optic cable carries an all-digital signal, which is better suited to today’s digital communication devices. Also, there is no interference from electric lines or magnetic fields like you experience with copper, so the signal is clearer, which will result in a better conversation and data transmission. Even lighting strikes, which can be transmitted by copper cabling, is not transmitted by Fiber-optic cable.

Having fiber to a home is a great modern feature that can increase the functionality and value of a home. In fact, having Fiber to the Home could increase the value of a home by as much as $5,000, according to the Fiber-to-the-Home Council *.  Fiber could be a great economic leveler for rural residents.  The homes in Arbon now have the same advanced connectivity as the most high-tech building in any major financial district in the world.

Calix ONT card that is installed on the side of a home to convert the fiber light signal to Ethernet and phone service. Note how a CAT5 network cable will plug directly into the ONT for an internet connection without needing a modem or any other equipment.

Sale of Wireless Internet Assets to Digis

Ten years ago, Direct Communications became one of the first companies in southeast Idaho to offer wireless internet. Since then, both our business and the broadband industry as a whole have changed dramatically.  We have decided that in order to move our business forward more effectively, we will be selling our wireless internet assets in Idaho to our friends at Digis, who specialize purely in wireless internet, so that we can focus on our core business of growing our fiber optic network in Idaho and developing our wired internet products, including our cable and DSL technologies. Basically, we want to focus on the things that we do best, and on the products where we have a real competitive advantage.

Please note that this sale does not include any cable, DSL, fiber, mobile wireless (cell phone), or Syringa Wireless assets, or our wireless customers on Digital Bridge (DBC) networks. So, to most of our customers, while this sale will not affect your wired internet service, we wanted to explain why this is good for your future with Direct Communications.

Some of our customers have expressed concerns such as: Why are you selling the wireless business? What is the future of Direct Communications?

Jeremy Smith, General Manger of Direct Communications in Idaho, sent out the following memo regarding these concerns:

“I wanted to let everyone know about the sale of our fixed wireless assets (not cell phone).  A few months back, we were approached by a company (Digis) to buy our wireless customers.  We did not go out and look for a buyer.  We did evaluate their offer and believe it to be best to sell this particular asset.  The proceeds of the sale will go toward growing the company’s other networks.

It always makes employees and customers nervous when things happen such as this.  So, I believe it important to explain things to all of you. I just want to emphasize, the sale was not essential from a financial point of view, but we figured it to be the best thing at this time as we look towards the future direction of the broadband industry.

In the future, people will probably have two internet connections:
1. a capped mobile data solution, and
2. an uncapped and reliable fixed service for streaming data, video, and future services.  We will be the solution for a fixed home and business internet service.  We should be able to accomplish this with our cable, fiber, and DSL networks. Though fixed wireless is considered a broadband service, I believe the bandwidth to be too limited for the amount of bandwidth needed in the short future (both in quantity and quality).

We have some exciting, positive times ahead.  Let’s make our wired networks the best in Idaho!”

Please understand, we are doing this to strengthen our business, and move in the direction we see the future of broadband service going. Fiber Optics is the future of the internet, the future of our company, and the future of rural broadband. Someday, we will have fiber optic cable to every home in our phone exchange areas, and hopefully to as many homes as possible in our cable areas.

We have spent the past couple of years building fiber to the vital institutions that serve your rural areas, like city, county and government buildings, schools, hospitals, doctors offices, libraries, small and large businesses, and many homes. We have also been delivering fiber service to the cell phone towers in the area, and even to most of our competitors in the area. Without an extensive fiber optic network, our rural economy in Idaho would not be able to function in this information age, so we are making a huge bet on fiber for all of us.

What will we do with the proceeds of this sale?

We will invest the proceeds back into the communities we serve—into building our fiber network in rural Idaho, and also delivering faster speeds on our other wired internet products, like cable and DSL.

Witness the drama unfold each week as the Nation’s top teams and biggest rivals battle on ESPN3. WatchESPN. College Football on ESPN. All Season Long.

Witness the drama unfold each week as the Nation’s top teams and biggest rivals battle on ESPN3 and WatchESPN. College Football on ESPN. All Season Long.

One immediate benefit cable and DSL customers will see is we will soon be offering ESPN3, a fantastic new high-definition sports channel available only online, to our broadband customers for FREE. Did you know ESPN3 will present 70 exclusive online College Football games this season, in addition to the hundreds they simulcast both online and on cable. This October alone, over 123 college football games will air on ESPN3.com. Enhanced viewing options makes ESPN3.com the best way to tune in. Watch up to 4 of your favorite games at once. If you are a sports fan, you will love this fantastic resource we will soon provide free to our customers. http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/source/espn3/
We will try encourage our customers to use the internet more for your video entertainment needs, a technology that is really taking off right now as more people subscribe to online services like Netflix and Hulu. You will begin to see new branding based around the tagline we already use in our Utah exchange ,where most of our customers already have fiber to the home: Faster. Streaming. Broadband.

As a marketing person, I am pleased that our company will be more focused on a single product line. A smart marketer once said: “Do one thing great. Eliminate the irrelevant.” Until fairly recently, we were providing various services including WiMax, Wireless, Cable etc, to over 90 towns in southeast Idaho, and each town’s offering was slightly different. That was a lot for our sales, customer service and technicians to keep up to date with. We were competing with ourselves in many places, covering the same areas with both wireless and wired service. That will now be a thing of the past. We will leave wireless to the people who make that their sole business, and focus ourselves completely on investing in, and improving, our wired networks, where we have a real competitive advantage. This should improve customer service, product design, and the speed at which we respond to new developments in broadband technology, including keeping up with bandwidth needs.

Please call us at 208 548 2345 if you have any concerns about this sale. I am confident that you will be very happy with results of the new direction we are taking as your local broadband service provider, and for those customers who will be transferred to Digis, we are also confident you will be happy with your continued wireless service—they are experts in the wireless field.

Direct Communications Makes a Move

DirectCom's new pocatello office reception area

During this rough economic time when most companies are looking to downsize, Direct Communications found it the perfect time to expand into a larger facility.  On October 31st Direct Communications moved from 485 W Chubbuck Rd, Suite B to 345 W Yellowstone Ave, Suite B in Pocatello, Idaho.   While Direct Communications was a proud resident in Chubbuck, the increase in staff and cramped work space made it apparent that a larger location was forth coming.   When we entered the office doors on Yellowstone, we knew we had found our perfect fit to make it our new home.  With a little muscle, paint, and new furniture, Direct Communications’ move was done in a flash.  As you enter our Pocatello office you are greeted by a friendly member of our sales staff.  There is a soft, leather couch to relax as you ponder the possibility of purchasing cellular phone service,  or enjoy watching the flat screen TV as it navigates through some free on line tools to enhance your web browsing  experience. 

Office on Yellowstone and Maple in Pocatello

DirectCom Office on Yellowstone and Maple in Pocatello

Direct Communications’ cozy, relaxed atmosphere is a reflection of their home town values and their commitment to bring the latest broadband technology to southeast Idaho.  Direct Communication will like to proudly invite everyone to visit us at our new home located at 345 W Yellowstone Ave, Suite B, Pocatello, ID 83201.  Our office hours are Monday through Friday 8am through 6pm.

Direct Communications donates $1000.00 to Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25.

On October 25, 2010, Direct Communications donated $1000.00 to School District 25.  This was in conjunction with a June 25, 2010, Direct Communications fundraiser for local education.  The goal was to show appreciation to the teachers in District 25.  Costa Vida donated the food for the event, and several local businesses donated raffle items to raise money for the school district.  Direct Communications introduced Amped Up Wireless in the area, and pledged to donate $100.00 for each new install of the product during the launch. 

Anya Beauchat, Sales Office Adminsitrator for Direct Communications in Pocatello, presents donation check to School District 25.

Anya Beauchat, Sales Office Adminsitrator for Direct Communications in Pocatello, presents donation check to School District 25.

This story was covered by KPVI News 6, who aired a segment on the 6pm news about the donation. To see the video, visit:

http://www.kpvi.com/story.php?id=30362&n=15206

                With the combined efforts of all involved, we were able to raise $1000.00 to donate to School District 25.  Anya Beauchat, Sales Office Manager of Direct Communications, said “We are proud to be donating to a school district, where not only some of the employee’s children attend, but also to a district where teachers and staff consistently go above and beyond.”  She adds, “Through this donation, Direction Communications would like to both thank, and honor, School District 25 for providing our children with the skills and tools they will need to ensure the future growth of Pocatello.”

                When contacted for comment, Shelley Allen the District’s Education Foundation Director said, “We are fortunate to live in a community that values education and partners with education. It was wonderful of Direct Communications to think of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District’s students, for giving, when planning their celebration.”  She added, “This donation benefits our kids, and is greatly appreciated.”

                Direct Communications presented a check on October 25, 2010 at 9:00 a.m during the school district Cabinet Meeting at 3115 Pole Line Road, in Pocatello.

DirectCom Lays Fiber-to-the Home in Arbon Valley

Fiber lights

Fiber optic cable connects the world.

Why is fiber optic cable being run to your home in Arbon?
We have been using fiber optics for our backbone network for a number of years—we  were one of the first companies in Idaho to use a digital switch, and helped build the first state-wide all fiber-optic sonnet loop, which ties the entire state of Idaho together into a network that goes back to the national backbone. However, not many telephone companies provide fiber all the way to the home yet—we were the first telephone company in Utah County to do that, so we thought it was time to offer it to our exchange here in Arbon.

Is it an expensive venture? How much does it cost to install fiber optics? Time? Labor?
Today, the price of the fiber optic cable has come to down the point where the cable itself isn’t any more expensive than the traditional copper, and of course at the same time, copper is increasingly expensive, with no hope of ever going down again, the way the world economy is headed. The real expense with fiber is in the electronics. The entire phone switch and head end must be upgraded to support the new fiber network, and on the customer end, the box (we call it a ONT, or optical network terminal) that fits onto the outside of the home, is very  expensive, because it’s a far more sophisticated system than the old copper devices. The great thing about this new ONT though, is that it supports the new technology that people are using more and more in their home, like home networks. Anybody who builds a house now will want to install CAT-5 network cable to each room, so they can network all their computers together, distribute their internet connection to each room, and many security, intercom and advanced entertainment systems all need network cable thesedays. On our ONT, there is a place you can plug your main Ethernet, or CAT-5 cable, right into the fiber-optic network, so you don’t have to use the old phone line or phone jacks. It’s engineered for the future. There is a little more labor involved in actually burying the fiber than there is with copper, which is just ploughed in directly, because fiber-optics must be run in conduit, but the long term benefits are clear and the investment profitable. Also, from what we have seen so far, there is less maintenance required on a fiber network than copper, so over time it will save us money.
 
What are the advantages of fiber optics? What changes would an average citizen see in their lives because of its use?
The most important factor is bandwidth. The fiber line running to a home from the main cable contains usually about 12 strands of fiber, but those 12 strands could probably carry all the information in Idaho. So, the capacity is huge—we have the ability to provide up to 100MB per second to each home. Fiber optics are the future of communications, and copper will someday max out on the bandwidth people will require. In the future, your telephone company will also be your cable company, and all media will be delivered as internet data. The advantage of this of course is that the possibilities for different content and the boundaries for broadcasting will be unlimited. Every person could someday broadcast their own TV station of our their home—just call up Grandma and say—change the channel to IP address such-and-such, and watch your grandchild blow out her birthday candles.

Fiber optics carry an all-digital signal, and is better suited to today’s digital communication devices. Also, there is no interference from electric lines or magnetic fields like you experience with copper, so the signal is clearer, which will result in a better conversation. There is no resistance in the fiber optic cable like metal lines have, so the signal can travel infinitely, because it’s light, not an electron flow, so we can now serve customers who live far away from the central phone office with products like DSL, which is vital in the rural areas. Fiber optics will open up whole new markets of people who previously were too far to pick up a DSL signal over copper. Ask all the farmers if they would like that. Having fiber to your home is a great modern feature that will increase the functionality and value of my home. Here in this little pocket in the hills, is a show-piece of the future.

How has communications in Arbon Valley changed over the last 100 years?
In our office in Rockland we still have the original little Rockland phone switch on display—the current president, Leonard May, used to sit at that switch as a child, which was housed in his family’s own home, and act as the operator, and manually change plugs around to switch the calls. An alarm would ring each time there was a call, and somebody in the family would have to wake up to connect the caller. He bought the company from his father in 1974, and from 300 local subscribers then, we now serve over 10,000 customers with a range of communications products from VOIP phones to DSL to cable TV.

 How many homes are hooked up to fiber optics in Idaho?
There aren’t any other phone companies in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, Pocatello, or anywhere down to the Utah border, deploying fiber to the home yet. Direct Communications is leading the way, and we have hooked up several homes from Bear Lake to Rockland to fiber.

How is fiber optics installed?