CAMP SHERMAN BROADBAND FIBER PROJECT
Bringing fast, reliable, affordable Internet to Camp Sherman
Background & History
The Challenge of Internet Connectivity in Camp Sherman
Over the last decade, securing a fast, reliable and affordable internet connection in Camp Sherman has been virtually impossible. Due to Camp Sherman’s remote location surrounded by National Forest, fiber broadband connection has yet to reach our unique town. Treasured old growth forests have likewise impeded wireless viewsheds, rendering satellite and fixed wireless systems unreliable. Various internet service providers have written off Camp Sherman as a viable business opportunity, as the cost of upgrading existing equipment to current standards exceeds the amount of income to be generated. These challenges have left local businesses, Black Butte School District, residents, and potential residents behind 21st Century opportunities.
Timeline Summary of Past Efforts to Improve Connectivity
Black Butte School District (BBSD), along with other committed local stakeholders, have tried a number of different tactics to improve broadband connectivity over the past decade. While past initiatives have resulted in limited improvements for some stakeholders, no solution has proven successful in truly meeting the needs of our community.
Community petition sent to Century Link to request an upgrade in service for Camp Sherman. The petition resulted in no clear response and no proposed upgrade.
Direct request sent to Century Link to install a fiber connection. Century Link responded, saying they could not justify the cost.
BBSD reached out to other local internet service providers, including Yellowknife and Sureline Broadband, to explore other types of service options, such as fixed wireless.
In January, Sureline Broadband established fixed-wireless connectivity in Camp Sherman using COVID-19 relief funds, as a temporary relief method. The service was made available to BBSD, select community businesses, and approximately 30 Camp Sherman homes. Realizing this was not a long-term solution for the community, Sureline began looking into the feasibility of fiber.
Starlink began to establish satellite service to a select number of local homes and home-based businesses. Only a limited number of kits are available at this time.
In May, BBSD contracted with Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC) to develop a Community Broadband Needs Assessment. The Assessment was completed in September. See below for more information about this project!
Construction of the new AT&T 5G cell tower begins. The new tower will enable connection to the FirstNet Emergency Response Network. It will also improve cell coverage, making mobile hotspots another, more viable broadband option for Camp Sherman residents.
The Jefferson County Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study kicks off in April. Camp Sherman residents are encouraged to participate in the needs survey:
*Additional details on past efforts and initiatives can be found on pages 22-23 of the BBSD Broadband Needs Assessment.
Black Butte School District Community Broadband Needs Assessment
During the 2020-21 school year, BBSD received funding from the Oregon Department of Education to support a Comprehensive Distance Learning program in response to COVID-19. Some of those funds were used to support a Community Broadband Needs Assessment. Black Butte School District partnered with the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council (COIC), who also provided matching funds, to conduct the research and write a report detailing the current status of broadband connectivity in the District. The report provides a picture of the current needs and gaps in broadband service for the school, local businesses, and residents, which helps make a strong case for additional investment in our community.
A primary goal going forward is to utilize the BBSD Broadband Needs Assessment to support future Camp Sherman-specific grant applications to expand access to the Camp Sherman community through the installation of fiber-optic service. To make this happen, the community must continue to build an effective and mutually beneficial partnership with a private-sector internet service provider. Sureline Broadband is prepared to make a significant investment in this potential project, and has already conducted a fiber feasibility analysis. A secondary goal of the needs assessment is to serve as a supplemental report to be incorporated into a Jefferson County-wide Broadband Assessment and Feasibility Study, which is currently underway.
About the Camp Sherman Fiber Project
Why fiber, and why now?
A fiber internet connection is fast, reliable, affordable, and able to adapt to future innovations, in other words, “future-proof.” Additionally, the fiber project will not negatively impact the precious ecological and cultural resources of the basin, as it will utilize existing power pole lines and electrical easements to deliver service.
Recently, the State of Oregon and Federal Government have passed legislation providing significant monetary investment to connect rural communities, such as Camp Sherman, to reliable broadband systems. With a variety of grant opportunities available, our community Broadband Needs Assessment complete, and a secure private-sector partnership, Camp Sherman is in a great position to apply for grant funding to offset the cost of a fiber installation project.
Once the initial fiber connection (the “middle mile”) from Sisters to Camp Sherman is established, a main fiber line will be constructed to reach the core of Camp Sherman. The main fiber line route will be determined by interest for a fiber connection expressed by homeowners and businesses during the planning phase, as well as the amount of awarded grant funding. The build-out in Camp Sherman will take place at one time and extensions to this core line may be limited or unavailable after completion. Anyone who wishes to connect to the system must pre-order services after the project receives official approval and funding.
Most properties in Camp Sherman will be able to connect to the main fiber line. There may be some options to connect to the system for remote properties in Camp Sherman that will not be able to directly connect to the main fiber line. Some may be able to connect with a wireless connection. Others may be able to pay extra to connect to the main line. Costs and available options to connect will vary depending on the location of each property.
It is very important that property owners express interest to connect to the main fiber line during the planning phase of the project. Any property owners who are not able to connect during the project construction, will incur a non-reoccurring charge (NRC) starting at $1000 to connect. This includes properties situated close to the fiber line. Properties that are more remote could incur much larger costs to connect. For property owners that pre-order services, most likely any NRC would be covered by grant funds. You can express your interest by submitting a letter of interest here.
Role of Sureline Broadband and Blue Mountain Networks
To successfully compete for grant funding, it is important for Camp Sherman to demonstrate that we have a strong partnership with a private sector internet service provider who is able to complete the installation and maintain the resulting network. Sureline Broadband has recently partnered with Blue Mountain Networks to deliver fiber to Camp Sherman. Both companies have demonstrated a commitment to bringing fiber service to Camp Sherman, even if they do not profit on this venture. Sureline Broadband has already invested significantly in feasibility analysis, as well as applied for a conditional use permit with the USFS. It is our goal to find a mutually beneficial pathway to fiber connectivity, which results in reliable connectivity for our community and a solid business model.
Proposed Fiber Infrastructure
Frequently Asked Questions
Will everyone in the Metolius Basin be able to connect to the fiber installation?
While the vast majority of Camp Sherman properties will be able to connect directly to the fiber, likely not every household in the basin will be able to connect due to the remoteness of some properties. Some properties may be able to wirelessly connect to the fiber. Others may not be able to connect at all.
I wasn’t able to connect to Sureline’s fixed wireless service, will I be able to connect to this service?
I own an undeveloped lot, or I own a lot that can be subdivided, can I get a fiber connected for future construction?
Yes. To make sure that the lot is considered in the process, you'll need to sign a letter of interest including the address for any undeveloped lot. A "splice point" will then be planned into the system at that lot, into which a fiber connection to future construction can be built (likely a Non-Reoccurring Charge will be required). If your property has not been subdivided, but you are interested in an additional splice point at your existing address, please indicate that at the bottom of the letter form.
I had difficulty with Sureline Broadband's customer service in the past. Will this time be different?
Sureline Broadband is now partnered with Blue Mountain Networks. Blue Mountain Networks has years of experience hooking up rural areas to fiber. They have committed to providing excellent customer service during the rollout of the fiber project.
I own a USFS summer cabin, will I be able to connect to the fiber system?
At this point in the process, the USFS has not granted special use permits to connect to any lots that they own. However, it is possible that a permit could be granted for each cabin that wishes to connect to the fiber. Once the permit for the "middle mile" (connection from Sisters to Camp Sherman) is completed, Sureline Broadband/Blue Mountain Networks will be working towards an engineering plan that will include all addresses associated with a Letter of Interest, including USFS summer cabins. Concurrently, our team will begin conversations with USFS about what the permit process will look like for summer cabins and other remote properties in Camp Sherman. The probability is that the fiber will go along any existing electrical easements. If electricity is delivered on your property below ground, a special use permit including archaeological supervision for digging will be required. This website will be updated when more information is available.
Will the fiber line be safe on an above ground power line through the forest?
One of the great benefits (there are many), of fiber is that it is passive. In other words, it doesn’t carry any voltage. So, the risk of fire is almost nil!
Although the pole line on which the fiber will be installed in ~75 years old, many of these poles will still be serviceable for the fiber line. Poles that aren't serviceable will be replaced.
To make this fiber project happen, we need the support of community members like you! Here are ways to get involved: