South Coast Strong

Every community needs infrastructure — like roads, water and sewer, a power source, etc. Infrastructure is what makes a community livable and makes commerce possible.

Our little island of the South Coast has a vital component of infrastructure that you may not have thought of before — high-speed broadband Internet.

Think about it. What business operates now without some kind of online presence? And when it comes to banking or health care, the Internet is essential.

Just as much as a road system, a rail line or a port, high-speed Internet access has become a must-have for business as well as personal use.

This is an asset we have here in our virtual island on the South Coast, and we need to begin promoting it.

Charter Communications recently completed installing a 720GB fiber optic circuit that loops through Coos Bay/North Bend, east to Roseburg, south to Grants Pass, then southeast to Crescent City, Calif., before heading back up the coast. The new line is a backup to the existing network, giving our region a robust, redundant system.

The project cost $1.6 million, 85 percent of it paid for through the Federal Communications Commission Rural Health Care Pilot Program. Another 15 percent came from the state Department of Education, High Desert Education Service District. Charter invested about $675,000. The driver for the project was health care and education, but we all get to take advantage of it.

(As an aside, last September PC Magazine ranked Charter first in Internet service in the Pacific Northwest, with its average 28MB download speeds.)

The Internet is more than just a place to socialize on Facebook. You could ask Steve Nye, manager of Engles Furniture Store in North Bend. The company was recently named one of the top 20 independent furniture stores in the country by Home Furnishings Business magazine. Part of the reason the store ranked high was because of its Internet presence.

Nye says the company ramped up its Internet presence about a year ago, beefing up its website with a virtual store tour and expanding its Facebook profile.

“I think it's essential,” Nye said. “We need to keep a relationship with our customers. I can't imagine doing business without it now.”

Or you could ask Curry County commissioner David Itzen. He is envisioning the redundant high-speed now running through his county as a new asset to attract business.

“I'm hoping we can leverage this,” Itzen said. “Businesses like goods transportation, or data centers. We already have inexpensive electricity. We have a labor force that needs work. High-speed Internet can be another selling point to attract business.”

The attraction can even carry over to individuals who come for the lifestyle with telecommutable jobs.

We already know we have assets that attract people to our island — beautiful country, cheap utilities, abundant recreation opportunities.

Our high-speed Internet access is one more powerful asset that we should be promoting to attract the kind of people and businesses we want here.

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