Mountain Home, Idaho Embraces Open Access Fiber

The city of Mountain Home, Idaho (pop. 14,000) is embracing open access city-run fiber as it pushes to expand affordable broadband to all city residents. Its stated goals: to boost broadband speeds and availability, while lowering prices 25 to 35 percent for all city residents. 

Like so many city-owned broadband projects, city leaders say they were inspired by the success of Ammon, Idaho, which owns and operates an open access fiber network. That network has dramatically boosted competition in the city, drawing nationwide attention for both lower rates, and the ease with which locals can switch providers with the click of a mouse

“The city is not trying to compete with the private sector,” the Mountain Home website proclaims. “The city will simply build and operate the fiber optic infrastructure. This infrastructure will then be open to any service provider that seeks to offer services in the city.”

With chipmaker Micron planning to build a new $15 billion fabrication plant in nearby Boise, city leaders hope to lure potential new employees through affordable broadband access. So they’re both deploying fiber conduit to every new development, and pushing an open access fiber network to lure additional competitors to the region.

That said, the network deployment is only just getting started.

“As of right now we have gone out for bids for the first local improvement district just like the city of Ammon, Idaho,” Mountain Home Mayor Rich Sykes tells ILSR. “Bids should be back next week and hopefully by the end of the month we can award a company to install the conduit.”

These “improvement districts” will be completed in waves, with the first district consisting of around 600-700 homes, and future districts consisting of 1000-1100 homes. 

According to the project FAQ, interested households need to pay $3,500 to connect to the network, which can be paid in full, or in installments of $23.50 a month or one annual payment of $282. Users also need to pay a monthly maintenance cost of $17.50 a month, and the city FAQ promises users gigabit speeds for as low as $8 a month. 

“The city has at least twelve Mountain Home residents on the city’s municipal broadband, along with all wells and city buildings,” Sykes said. “At the end of the month, we will be hooking up to 2 local businesses as well.”

Currently three ISPs, Sumo Fiber, Fybercom, and QWK.NET, are lined up to provide service. The city says it’s hard at work slowly expanding the project, and a city map is currently tracking which homes have expressed interest.

“We have added three local fiber optic huts in the city as well as offering Free WiFi to three local City parks,” Sykes said. “We have also drilled over 14 miles of Conduit while adding our fiber optic cabling.”

As for paying for it all, Sykes says the city is hoping that most of the costs will be covered by hook up and maintenance fees, though he added that the city plans to do a warrant for the LID “hopefully through a local Credit Union,” and will explore applicable grant opportunities. 

Like so many US cities, Mountain Home got tired of waiting for regional monopolies to consistently provide affordable fiber. So, like many of those same cities, the city leaders decided the time was right to do something about it. 

“Mountain Home believes the way for our small community to compete in the global market as well as in the Idaho market is to make sure fiber optics is installed into every home and business,” Sykes said. “Mountain Home might be a small community, but we definitely punch above our weight class in terms of becoming the next century city in Idaho.”

Inline map of Mountain Home courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Inline map showing residential interest for network courtesy of City of Mountain Home

Inline image of Historic Turner Hotel courtesy of Wikimedia Commons