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In the trenches: Internet expanding to Elko, Spring Creek customers
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In the trenches: Internet expanding to Elko, Spring Creek customers

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Conduit along Lamoille Highway

Conduit for a natural gas pipeline is visible along Lamoille Highway as equipment sits nearby on Sept. 25.  Work on a trench to lay Southwest Gas Corp.'s pipeline started two months ago and will include a fiber optic line from CC Communications. 

Unlocking more internet access to the Elko area has been a years-long project that is now starting to see the fruit of its labors, partly due to a natural gas expansion into Spring Creek.

As Southwest Gas Corp’s trench nears 12th Street and Lamoille Highway, at least one internet provider is taking advantage of the open trench to lay fiber optic cable. Two other providers are also planning to enter the local market that is starved for high-speed broadband service.

A high-pressure gas line is part of Southwest’s initial phase of its Spring Creek expansion, said Debra Gallo, director of regulatory projects.

Work started at Elko Summit Estates by the Nevada Department of Transportation’s Traffic and Safety Division 1 August to dig the trench and install the conduits for gas and a fiber optic line from CC Communications.

The second phase will take the gas line south down Lamoille Highway to Palace Parkway, which is in the design and permitting phase.

“At this point, we don’t know who may be interested in installing the trench,” Gallo said. “We are planning to begin construction in early 2021, so we should know a little better about that part of the project by the end of this year.”

CC CommunicationsCC Communications CEO Mark Feest said the company’s Phase 1 of “Fiber to the Home” project would first serve Elko Summit Estates, downtown Elko and neighborhoods adjacent to 12th Street and Lamoille Highway.

“We are working on reaching agreements with apartment complex owners along 12th Street to quickly and efficiently bring services to their tenants,” Feest said. “We anticipate meeting our original timeline to turn up the first customers in the November/December timeframe.”

Since its first meeting with the Spring Creek Association a year ago, Feest said the 125-year-old company based out of Churchill County has fulfilled its promise to work with Southwest’s trench timeline to enter the Spring Creek market. This year it expanded its plans to include the City of Elko.

“Phase 2 will move beyond the downtown commercial district, as we are currently engineering systems for residential services on both sides of Interstate 80,” Feest explained.

SafeLinkSafeLink also entered into talks with the SCA at the same time as CC Communications. Jasen Herr, executive operations director, estimated the project would cost $50-$60 million and would enter the Elko market as well.

“We’re at the 99-yard line,” Herr told the board of directors on Sept. 23. “We have a couple of negotiations to finish up, and then we’re ready to go.”

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Rather than use the trench, Herr said SafeLink opted to lay the fiber on their own.

“If we use the trench, we will not be able to be as agile as where we need to be,” Herr explained. “If we do it ourselves, we can go wherever we want to go … and we can do it in a lot faster timeline than what Southwest is able to do. They gave us as six- or seven-year timeline. We’re looking to get this done in three [years].”

In the past year, SafeLink posted a website to explore interest from both Spring Creek and Elko residents.

Although Elko County and the City of Elko agreed to waive franchise and right-of-way fees, the SCA board of directors unanimously voted down the request to waive an estimated $150,000 to $160,000 worth of permit and right-of-way fees for construction within the HOA’s boundaries on association-maintained roads.

“If we waive this, it comes back on dues for the members,” said SCA attorney Katie McConnell. “Our responsibility is to the members’ money.”

Vice Chairman Tom Hannum said he did not support waiving fees because it is not guaranteed that every resident within the HOA would subscribe to SafeLink.

“It’s a cost that should just be incurred by the customers that want your service, not all of Spring Creek,” Hannum said.

Herr said despite the board’s vote, SafeLink still had plans to come to Spring Creek but was hoping to avoid two separate line items for surcharges to customers in Elko and Spring Creek.

“We’re going to come to Spring Creek regardless,” Herr said. “I’m not sure [when], but [the vote] may not delay it at all.”

White CloudAdditionally, White Cloud Networks Nevada stated in a press release that more wireless towers are on their way to serve Spring Creek residents.

“We were recently approved to build two new sites around the Spring Creek area. Those sites should be operational before winter,” the statement said. “Several site upgrades in Elko and Spring Creek have occurred, so the reliability of operations will be improved.”

The company is also looking to install a tower in Elko to provide additional coverage for Kittridge Canyon, White Rock Road and Osino communities.

“White Cloud is working on infrastructure development to be able to provide fixed wireless LTE as local coverage to customers in Osino in Ryndon in the near future,” the statement continued. “In addition, White Cloud is working on other projects in northeast Nevada that will enhance the services currently offered and will allow for continued growth.”

The company’s office is also moving to a new location at 744 Commercial St. in November.

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Courts, K-12 schools & Spring Creek reporter

Staff writer for the Elko Daily Free Press

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