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Link Oregon finding partners during Broadband Investment Era

Entering the third year of the pandemic, Link Oregon continues to address the digital divide in practical ways by expanding access to education, health care, remote work, and innovation across the state. Over the past year, the organization has increasingly focused on building an intentional, inclusive, statewide strategy around broadband investment and expansion.

Laying the groundwork for long-term infrastructure investments to serve the greater good requires sharing expertise and partnering with the state’s Economic Development Districts (EDDs), Education Service Districts, League of Oregon Cities, Association of Oregon Counties, regional Broadband Action Teams (BATs), and Tribes. It also means collaborating with state legislators, the Oregon Broadband Office, private telecoms, municipal providers, co-ops, and local Internet exchanges to envision a cohesive, future-ready, statewide network ecosystem.

This past spring, at the request of Rep. Pam Marsh and two legislative colleagues, Link Oregon’s Steve Corbató and Zayo’s Stuart Taubman convened a group of broadband experts to develop ideas for addressing the remaining gaps in middle-mile infrastructure and service delivery in Oregon. The resulting Middle Mile Infrastructure Planning Group’s Futures Report presents recommendations to inform statewide broadband strategy and policy.

In December 2021, in conjunction with a number of Tribal and academic sponsors, Link Oregon hosted the first Oregon Tribal Broadband Summit, which engaged members of Oregon’s federally-recognized Tribes; representatives from federal, state, and regional government agencies; and broadband equity advocates and experts, including Dr. Vint Cerf, Matt Rantanen, and Danae Wilson. Participants came together virtually to understand common and divergent needs and persistent challenges around Tribal connectivity. In addition, they shared activities that Tribes are undertaking to leverage funding and to build collaborations. A second Summit is scheduled in 2022.

Together with fellow Quilt Member CENIC, Link Oregon also co-hosts the Western States Broadband Alliance, a coalition of representatives from state broadband offices, state libraries, and state networks across seven western states: California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The Alliance shares best practices, lessons learned, and resources for strategic broadband development within each state and across the region. Link Oregon also is partnering with Oregon EDDs and Onward Eugene to launch Faster Internet Oregon, a crowdsourced broadband mapping initiative. The initiative will use the M-Lab performance measurement platform for data collection and a commercial product as the initial tool for design and cost estimation. The result will empower EDDs and BATs with the tools and information needed to build comprehensive infrastructure funding proposals.

No one organization can conquer Oregon’s connectivity challenges alone. Working in concert with a diverse ecosystem of contributors, Link Oregon is committed to developing a cohesive vision for statewide broadband that ensures a resilient and sustainable future for all Oregonians.

Link Oregon is a federally tax-exempt 501(c)(3) Oregon non-profit organization, a consortium of the State of Oregon through its Enterprise Information Services and the state’s four research universities: Oregon State University, OHSU, Portland State University, and the University of Oregon. We provide high-speed, resilient, middle-mile fiber broadband connectivity to our state’s public and non-profit sectors.