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Rural Douglas County, OR, has benefited greatly from broadband infrastructure, according to the first in an expected series of reports about rural broadband benefits released by the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA).

The study, which was conducted on behalf of the organization by Futuriom Research, says that Douglas Fast Net (DFN) has created jobs, improved the quality of life, set the community up for a better future and generated about $28 million.

DFN has deployed 2,799 miles of fiber to more than 12,500 subscribers, which is almost one-third of the population. Plans call for expanding the footprint “significantly” and offering 10G symmetrical service. The network operator has grown organically and by acquisition. It uses equipment and services from Ciena, Juniper Networks, Corning, Adtran and PLP.

The network dates back to the end of 2000 when health facilities were linked to it. Residential service began in 2003 and most of the anchor institutions were added two years later. DFN is a subsidiary of Douglas Electric Cooperative (DEC).

DEC utilizes fiber infrastructure, including equipping all its substations with supervisory control and data acquisition and advanced metering infrastructure technologies. DEC has plans to build on this smart grid functionality, according to the report.

Forest fires are an issue in the DFN’s service territory, which links wildfire command centers at local schools for firefighters’ emergency and personal use. Pole top cameras, supported by DFN, have replaced manned fire towers. These cameras help locate and track firefighting efforts.

“Fiber broadband was a game changer for our community. It has helped our customers reduce costs, our hospitals improve care, our city government reduce costs and enabled students of all ages to participate in online learning,” Douglas Fast Net CEO Todd Way said in a press release about the rural broadband benefits research. “We know that it’s also playing a key role in helping keep some of our largest employers in the area and attract new businesses and industries to our market.”

The impact of broadband on rural communities has been the subject of much research.

In February, The University of Missouri quantified the impact of broadband in rural areas. It concluded that a 1% increase in wired broadband availability can lead to a .37% increase in the employment rate and that a 1% increase in adoption can lead to a .87% increase in employment.

Last May, consulting firm Deloitte conducted a study that suggested that a 10% point increase in broadband penetration in 2016 would have added 806,000 new jobs in 2019, an average annual increase of 269,000 jobs. Adding 10 Mbps to average download speeds in 2016 would have added new 139,000 jobs in 2019, which would be about 46,500 additional jobs annually.

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