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Sirti Bestows Award of Honor
October 21, 2010. Billie Moreland, PhD, of Billie Moreland and Associates and Steve Simmons, PhD, E...

Triangle %u201CGraduates%u201D at Sweet Sixteen
The Idea (1994)
In June 1994, while on a layover in the San Francisco airport, Dr. Steve Simmons cam...

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03/04/2004 - How Spokane Got Connected

Liquor stores, bars, and supermarket check-out counters have a sign that reads “you are over 21 if you were born on ‘this date’ 1983. Apple computer introduced the Macintosh in a Superbowl commercial in 1984. Today’s young adults are in the vanguard of those who have never known a world without personal computers.

Micro-computers soon replaced the typewriter on nearly every desktop, and altered the way people conducted business. Information was shared by copying files to a floppy disk and hand delivering, or by carefully packaging the disk in specially created mailers for sending through the postal service. The techies of the business world soon decided that creating a company-wide computer network would vastly improve just about everything. The World Wide Web and e-mail weren’t very far behind.

The Internet had been created for military purposes long before the commercial world found a use for it. In Spokane, the first commercial Internet use was in the late 1980’s. The network folks at ISC (now Getronics) gave a networking demonstration on ‘primitive’ UNIX based computers showing how easy it was to ‘talk’ to their counterparts in Sweden. In the nineties, World Wide Web and Internet became household words, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) became a new small business niche, and e-mail became the sine qua non of both business and personal communication.

As everyday computer usage and computer networks grew, communications and electrical engineers were also busy. Several key concepts that led to the creation, development, and expansion of Spokane’s network foundation began in the 1980s. The originators of what became the area’s widespread dark fiber deployment were Jim Burke, a SCADA Engineer, and Dan Stutzke, an electrician, who were then employed by Washington Water Power (WWP). The two brainstormed with Ben Dote, later of NOAnet, and Warren Miller, manager of WWP telecommunications. Burke and Stutzke were commissioned by Miller to design and install a simple computer network to provide connectivity for the customer service software that was to run the new computers that replaced the old WWP mainframe/monitor system. This tiny network became the springboard for something much bigger.

Just as electricity had replaced lamps and telephones had replaced telegrams, Burke and Stutzke’s contention was that the greater speed and bandwidth of optical fiber would quickly replace copper wire transmission. To prove the concept of an optical fiber distribution system, the newly formed Washington Water Power Fiber (later Avista Fiber) chose the Spokane school system. From this idea came the initial meetings between WWP, EWU, SCC, and Dist. 81. A meeting was set up for all of the educational technology administrators of the Spokane/CDA area. Burke presented the concepts that he and Stutzke had put together ---using spreadsheets, GIS maps and economic forecasts. The concept clicked and the Educational Metropolitan Area Network (EMAN) consortium began.

With the consortium, the installation of optical fiber under the streets of Spokane exploded. Avista Fiber wasn’t alone. At about the same time, GST (now Time-Warner Telecom), NEXTLINK (now XO Communications), Electric Lightwave, Inc., and US West (now Qwest) ran their share of optical fiber conduits under the streets. WWP Fiber installed fiber throughout the area ultimately connecting all of the schools in District 81, and on through Liberty Lake, Coeur d’Alene, and Hayden. The other companies focused on business opportunities and their fiber is concentrated in downtown Spokane and other areas of business concentration. Most of the downtown optical fiber was in place by 1999.

Columbia Fiber Solutions acquired Avista’s extensive fiber optic cable network in October 2002. According to John Everett, General Manager of Columbia Fiber Solutions, the total optical fiber installed in greater Spokane region now totals at least 500 - 600 miles of fiber, and this doesn’t include Qwest. “There is fiber everywhere,” says Everett.




Billie Moreland
 
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