LINCOLN COUNTY, Idaho — Lincoln County has had poor internet service for years, yet now the county has managed to add several new broadband towers, which will improve service across the region immensely.
“We’re kind of an internet desert out here, and rightfully so," said Lincoln County Commissioner Rebecca Wood. "We are a long ways from anywhere, and we don’t have that many people, and so building a huge infrastructure takes a lot of money.”
The need for improved service has heavily increased since the pandemic started, with both students and adults having to attend school or meetings in a virtual setting.
Since money was the issue, county officials applied to receive funding from the CARES act.
“We didn’t think we’d get it to tell you the truth. It was statewide, only 10 million," said Wood. "We were very lucky we got 1.5 million to do it. We hired a company, by RFP process, we hired a company, and it was tight. We only had 90 to 100 days to complete the project.”
Crews worked around the clock and in inclement weather conditions to get numerous towers up by December 31, 2021, or the county would lose the funding.
Towers have been set up across Lincoln County: one by the Lincoln County Recreation Center, one at 4 Brothers Dairy in Shoshone and another in and around Richfield.
Now that the towers are up, residents have already noticed a significant difference in internet speed.
“The download and upload speed is lightning fast and almost startling," said local resident, Karma Fitzgerald. "So, I think that’s going to be great and provide better opportunities.”
Officials are also looking at the big picture of how it will impact the region, its residents and industries like telehealth.
“If you want to look at economic development, we'll be able to have telebusinesses now that we’ve got the connectivity that they need," said Wood. "For our schools, it’s going to be amazing, it really is going to change the way that we can operate and classes that we can offer.”
Now that this new internet service is available, there are varying rates that people can select.
“Go to the website etsfast.com, they can fill out a little form and they will call them right back," said Wood. "They will schedule a time to come and survey their place to make sure it’s a good fit for them. They won’t hook anybody up until they can guarantee 50 by 50 at least.”