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A Ziply Fiber technician works on a cable in this undated photo. The company is working to make its fiber optic internet service available to everyone who wants it in Union and Wallowa counties, said Dan Miller, a Ziply spokesperson, in September 2021.

LA GRANDE — The need for fiber optic internet service in Union and Wallowa counties is growing due to factors like the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is a need Ziply Fiber is taking a big step toward addressing.

Ziply Fiber is launching a drive to make its fiber optic internet service available to everyone who wants it in La Grande and Enterprise, where it already offers some fiber optic service, plus in Cove, Elgin, Imbler and Joseph, according to Dan Miller, a Ziply spokesperson. Ziply’s goal is to make its fiber optic internet service available to 38,000 homes, apartment complexes, businesses, schools and other sites across Union and Wallowa counties.

Miller said Ziply hopes to reach this objective within a year.

“Every single person who wants fiber optic service will have a chance to get it,” he said.

Ziply Fiber, a telecommunications company, purchased the Pacific Northwest portion of Frontier Communications on May 1, 2020. Since the purchase, Ziply has focused much of its efforts on bringing fiber optic internet service to small rural communities in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

“It will fill a critical need,” Miller said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the need, Miller said, by increasing the number of people who use the internet to do school work, receive health care or work remotely.

The pandemic has boosted awareness of the fiber optic void in rural areas but has not changed Ziply’s focus.

In the past 17-1/2 months, the company has provided or announced its intention to add fiber optic internet service to 52 towns in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

The fiber optic cable Ziply is installing provides lightning-fast internet service, Miller said. He said it is generally at least 10 times faster than a DSL connection. The fiber optic cable also can provide phone and television streaming services.

Fiber optic systems use small, flexible strands of glass encased in a protective sleeve, known as a fiber cable, to connect to the internet.

Miller said Ziply, which has its headquarters in Kirkland, Washington, is investing in fiber optic because it may never be surpassed by another technology.

“Fiber optic runs at the speed of light. Nothing is faster,” he said. “It is future-proof.”

Ziply Fiber is not alone on the fiber optic internet front in Union and Wallowa counties. Eastern Oregon Net Inc. in La Grande, according to its website, provides fiber optic internet service to portions of La Grande, Elgin, Enterprise, Imbler, North Powder, Summerville and Baker City.

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General assignment reporter

Beats include the communities of North Powder, Imbler, Island City and Union, education, Union County veterans programs and local history. Dick joined The Observer in 1983, first working as a sports and outdoors reporter.

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