RENO, Nev. — A $30 million all-fiber link under construction between Reno and Las Vegas was inspired by a need to provide telemedicine services to rural hospitals.
But the fiber link — essentially a high-capacity pipeline to carry data — is likely to be even more important as a critical piece of infrastructure for the data-heavy industries upon which Northern Nevada is staking its economic future.
“We have big plans for this network. It’s going to be a big deal,” says John Clayton, senior vice president and general manager of Nevada Broadband Networks.
Its pitch: the fastest service, perhaps twice as fast, to transfer files among Reno, Carson City and Las Vegas. Both areas already are seeing development of big data centers such as Apple near Reno and Switch in Las Vegas.
Potential customers of the new line range from those large data centers and state offices to cable television operators in small communities along the route of the 571-mile link, says Clayton. The data-heavy development of unmanned aerial vehicles also is likely to generate traffic to fill the new pipeline.
It will be the first public-use network along the route.
“There is a good bit of interest in the market for it,” says Clayton.
The key to development of the line, however, was the need of rural hospitals for better links to Reno and Las Vegas, allowing development of telemedicine links between small towns and big-city hospitals.
The Nevada Hospital Association won a $19.6 million grant from the federal government in 2009 to finance construction of the telecommunication network, and engineering design was completed two years later.
The association partnered with privately held Nevada Broadband Networks to finance the project. Nevada Broadband Networks is 90 percent owned by Nebraska-based Pinpoint Communications and 10 percent owned by Nevada investors.
Construction began in late June at Goldfield, with crews working north toward Reno and south toward Las Vegas.
The construction is relatively simple, Clayton says, as the fiber lines will use existing NV Energy and Valley Electric Association poles along about 90 percent of the route.
The remaining portion of the route — notably, the stretches from Reno to Carson City, and from Carson City east to Silver Springs — will be underground.
But while construction is expected to be a relatively simply matter for Nevada Broadband Networks, the permits the company needed before it could begin work were anything but simple.
The company began working on permits in April 2012 — some 26 months before construction began — and it began negotiations with landowners for right-of-way permission to string lines over their properties.
“It’s taken longer than we thought,” Clayton acknowledges. “A lot of route changes brought delays.”
As crews work their way north and south from Goldfield, inspectors will be traveling in front of them, looking for endangered species of plants and animals.
The project is expected to be completed in March or April of 2015.
Bill Welch, president of the Nevada Hospital Association, said the fiber link improves the ability of hospitals to deliver state-of the art data.
“The goal of our member healthcare facilities has always been to provide patients with the best possible care using the latest technology available in the healthcare industry,” Welch said in a prepared statement. “We feel this network is the next step in living out that goal.”
The completed network will be operated by Nevada Broadband Networks under a 25-year agreement, and it has an option to operate it for an additional 25 years.