Fiber Optic Internet: A Conduit for Economic Transformation

Rogue Valley

A robust, high-capacity fiber optic network already runs throughout Southern Oregon. One company, LS Networks, is poised to “bridge the digital divide” in the region by making their network available to businesses, educational, healthcare and government operations as never before.

Who Will Stay?

That’s a common refrain when parents, educators, employers and regional officials discuss the future of young people growing up in Southern Oregon.

Increasingly, rural areas are losing young, talented people in search of opportunity and better employment prospects. The current reality is that 55 percent of the U.S. population already lives in urban areas, with that figure set to reach 68 percent by 2050. This increasing concentration is often discussed in relation to urban infrastructure: how will cities cope with this influx of people? The loss of young, vibrant talent in great traditional towns and cities like Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland is an afterthought, if it’s thought about at all.

To let rural communities fade away, however, would be a mistake. The clean air, quality of life and proximity to nature are all things to be treasured; it’s why many of those moving away from rural areas to cities do so with a heavy heart. In the years to come, however, technology may mean they don’t have to. Around the world, governments and private enterprises are looking at ways of preventing the countryside from being hollowed out. Southern Oregon in particular, has a little recognized resource that’s ready to deliver on the full potential of the region and it’s hard working people.

“For years, we paid multiple vendors for enterprise level bandwidth and maintained expensive routing equipment at facilities in Portland and Seattle. By working with LS Networks, we get all of the redundancy, reliability, performance and scalability we need.”

Todd Way, General Manager of DFN.

Douglas Fast Net: Powered By LS Networks

Many of us who live in Southern Oregon are familiar with the Douglas Fast Net (DFN) success story. Founded in 2001, DFN serves tens of thousands of business and residential customers. Major customers include Douglas County Fire District #2, the State of Oregon, Mercy Medical Center, Umpqua Community College, nine city governments, thirteen school districts, and countless medical facilities.

What most people don’t know is that DFN distributes the bandwidth provided by LS Networks, the same company that now serves Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland. According to Todd Way, General Manager of DFN, “By consolidating from a multi-vendor approach to LS Networks we got more than just performance, we saved money, as well.” By being able to purchase redundancy from a single vendor, DFN doesn’t have to pay a second internet provider for full redundancy.

Particularly in rural areas, true redundancy via multiple providers is often an illusion. Network providers function in a complex world in which competitors also sell transport to each other. Most service agreements do not allow the end client to know the specifics of
a route, so there is no way to verify or guarantee redundancy. As business situations change, those routes can change without notice.

LS Networks is designed differently than large providers, and they do business differently. LS Networks operates with transparency that competitors often avoid or are simply unable to offer. Unlike the national providers, LS Networks gives their customers detailed documentation of their fiber routes and equipment configurations and topology.

“You can truly verify separate network and equipment connections for redundancy, and then get contractual guarantees for that configuration. That’s something you can’t do with traditional vendor diversity,” said Leif Hansen, VP of Engineering at LS Networks.

LS Networks In Medford & Businesses Like Yours

Many residents of Southern Oregon are familiar with Medford Radiology Group, especially if they’ve needed a CT scan. The group’s radiologists oversee about 360,000 procedures per year, offering state-of-the-art radiological diagnostics, reports and consultation to patients and referring physicians in clinics and hospitals across Southern Oregon. Their geographic footprint covers Medford, Ashland, the Rogue Valley, Grants Pass, Bend and the Oregon Coast.

In 2015, LS Networks created a custom-built network, increasing the organization’s network bandwidth, performance and security.

“We had two main concerns,” said Alan Jackson, Director of IT at Medford Radiology Group. “One was the lack of security. We have HIPAA laws about privacy and security, and our previous network didn’t provide the mechanics to ensure our data was actually private. The second concern was we needed more bandwidth. Our old network wasn’t capable of meeting our considerable data transmission needs.”

“LS Networks allows us to deliver huge amounts of mission-critical data throughout our service area,” Jackson said. “We use roughly 4 gigabytes per day right now, but we can call up LS Networks and say we need an additional 8 or 10 gigabytes if we take on a new client that uses a lot of data. If we have special back-up needs, LS Networks will provide bandwidth on demand to temporarily increase bandwidth for that purpose. We can run huge backups because we have the 50 to 100 gigabytes of data we need just a phone call away.”

Not surprisingly, the demand for bandwidth will only grow in medical and business applications. For example, new life-saving technology like Digital Breast Tomosynthesis (DBT) uses anywhere from 250 megabytes to 3 gigabytes per exam, and with 80–90 exams per day, that’s a lot of data. This data transmission can be life saving when radiology reports go to emergency rooms across the state.

“What most people don’t realize,” said Dan Swanson, VP Marketing at LS Networks, “is that a medium sized business in Grants Pass, Medford or Ashland, can get a one gigabyte connection with us, and have all of the power of our network available to them. It’s scalable from one gigabyte to 100 gigabytes, provides VoIP telephone services, Unified Communications and access to virtually limitless, powerful applications in the cloud. All of these capabilities and more are available to all our customers. They’re just a phone call away.”

The promise of technology, in general, has always been about supporting talent, streamlining processes and eliminating barriers to productivity. Measuring the real value of technology is, and always will be, a human equation. When it comes to the Internet, specifically, this has never been more true.

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