Small rural telecom service providers sometimes have network facilities connecting unique geographies –and in some cases, those unique facilities can be a tremendous asset. The latest example of this comes from Pioneer Connect, a once traditional phone company that has made the transition to broadband. Pioneer Connect serves the Oregon coast in the Northwest, among other markets.

Pioneer Connect recently won a contract to provide dark fiber connectivity between the Oregon State University (OSU) campus in Corvallis and the university’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) in Newport on the Oregon coast. The connection will support advanced marine research.

Telecompetitor talked to Pioneer Connect General Manager Mike Whalen about the win and how Pioneer got it.

Pioneer Connect Project
Oregon State University will be using dark fiber on a portion of the 700-mile fiber network that Pioneer Connect originally put in place years ago to interconnect the company’s telecom switches, but which has been upgraded many times over the years.

As Whalen explained, Pioneer connect will provide a 70-mile link that offers a more direct route between the OSU campus and HMSC than any other network operator could provide.

“We were the only provider that had fiber on the shorter route,” said Whalen. With any other provider, the route would have been at least three times the distance, he noted.

The purchase was made by Link Oregon, a non-profit partnership between OSU, the University of Oregon, Portland State University and the state of Oregon. Link Oregon will be installing electronics on the dark fiber from Pioneer Connect to support speeds of 100 Gbps. An important benefit of the shorter dark fiber route is that Link Oregon was able to avoid the expense and complexity of installing repeaters, Whalen said.

One of the high-tech applications that the connection will support is an imaging system that HSMC will tow behind a ship to capture high-resolution plankton images. According to a press release about the Pioneer Connect win, that research can generate 30 to 50 terabytes of data during a 10-day research operation. Previously, researchers stored the data on more than two dozen hard drives and physically transported them to Corvallis.

The new connection also will be able to speed the transfer and processing of data from gene sequencing research at HMSC’s Center for Genome Research and will support OSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Whalen sees other opportunities in and around Newport moving forward. He noted that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is building a facility in the area that will conduct wave power research and Pioneer Connect’s unique network facilities may help in obtaining some additional business as that expansion occurs.

In addition, Pioneer Connect may have other opportunities to work with Link Oregon, which plans to improve broadband connectivity for research, education, healthcare and government organizations in the state.

Some of those opportunities may come through PEAK Internet, a competitive carrier owned 50/50 by Pioneer Connect and local utility Consumers Power. Interestingly, Pioneer Connect’s relationship with Consumers Power dates back many years to when the two companies were part of a joint venture to resell direct broadcast satellite service in the area. That joint venture subsequently bought an internet service provider that started at OSU and began to focus more on broadband services.

Telecompetitor’s Broadband Operator Profile series profiles service providers bringing broadband to every corner of the world.

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