NEWPORT, WA – Construction crews have started stringing fiber in Pend Oreille County, Wash., as the Pend Oreille Public Utility District (PUD) launched the broadband stimulus-funded expansion of its fiber optic network. The official ribbon-cutting for this $34.5 million project will be held June 22.

As in many rural Washington counties, the public utility district is empowered to build and operate telecommunications infrastructure, but services must be delivered by third-party providers. Pend Oreille County built a small pilot FTTH project several years ago, but the new project will make high-speed Internet available to about 3,200 households, 360 businesses and 24 community anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries and health care facilities.

Construction of 370 miles of overhead fiber optic cable on existing power structures is being done by Tetra Tech Construction Services, and Mountain Power Construction is performing the power make-ready work on the PUD’s existing overhead lines. Both contractors also have subcontractors, such as tree trimmers, working on their projects. PUD field personnel are surveying underground electrical service in preparation for the underground fiber optic construction.

This first phase of construction is expected to be completed by November 30, 2011.