Rexburg city and business leaders gathered Friday for a ribbon cutting ceremony for a fiber optic internet development project to commence in July.

Silver Star Communications, under the banner of Lightbridge Community Broadband and in partnership with the City of Rexburg, will begin to install an open access fiber optic network within city limits next month. 

It is expected to take three years to install the lines. 

Fiber optic internet is a broadband connection that transmits data as pulses of light through thin glass fibers. 

Lightbridge General Manager Rob Thornburgh said it is 10 times faster than other internet options and that residents will be able to choose plans that provide internet speeds of up to 2,000 megabytes per second. Plans are also available that provide up to 10,000 MBPS for those who need it. 

Fiber optic is also symmetrical, which means that a 500 MBPS download speed amounts to the same upload speed.

“We’re sharing a lot more content,” Thornburgh said. “We’re working from home, we’re doing telehealth … it’s going to be extremely important to have that speed.”

General Manager Rob Thornburgh promotes the benefits of fiber optic internet during a news conference before the ribbon ceremony. Photo credit: Mario Miguel.
General Manager Rob Thornburgh promotes the benefits of fiber optic internet during a news conference before the ribbon ceremony. Photo credit: Mario Miguel.

Lightbridge is not an internet service provider but will provide the infrastructure that ISPs can use for their customers. Thornburgh likened Lightbridge’s role to that of an airport that hosts several private airlines. Residents will be able to choose from a variety of internet service providers. Two, which could not be disclosed, have already signed contracts with Silver Star, according to a representative from the company.

Monthly prices and terms are not yet determined, but Thornburgh said they will be more affordable than traditional internet services.

An early bird free installation special is currently available for Rexburg residents.

The cables Lightbridge will install are meant to be nearly indestructible and non-corrosive with built-in redundancy.

Aside from the use of existing infrastructure, the city is not using additional tax dollars to fund the project. 

Silvers Star’s partnership with the city will allow the company to use the fiber rings that the city already purchased with federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. The city used the rings to connect its assets for more efficient communication. A lease agreement will also let Silver Star use some of the fiber from the rings that they can then build on to expand into residential and business areas.

Chamber of Commerce Chairman Janalyn Holt hands CFO Jeff England flowers to welcome Lightbridge to Rexburg. Photo credit: Mario Miguel.
Chamber of Commerce Chairman Janalyn Holt hands CFO Jeff England flowers to welcome Lightbridge to Rexburg. Photo credit: Mario Miguel.

Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill, Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Janalyn Holt and a handful of community residents attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Brock Walters, Silver Star’s project supervisor who grew up 14 miles outside Rexburg in Newdale, cut the ribbon.

“It’s such a great opportunity for the residents and even the community as a whole to have this,” Walters said.

Rexburg Director of Economic Development Scott Johnson touted the expected economic benefits of this development by mentioning the upcoming grand openings of a couple of businesses.

“This broadband project actually was one of those things that made them very excited to come,” Johnson said.

Silver Star CFO Jeff England told Scroll that the company chose to invest in Rexburg because it’s one of the fastest-growing cities in the country with a lot of opportunities, but it lacks good high-speed internet options.

“It just made a lot of sense to come in and help make a difference here,” England said.

Walters said that while fiber optic will only be available within the city, Lightbridge is in talks with county leaders about a potential expansion outside Rexburg.

Johnson said an open-access fiber optic network is not designed to fill the large-scale needs of a university like BYU-Idaho, but that he thinks there will be some “trickle-down” effects as students and employees engage with it in the coming years.