The Ketchum Ranger District announced Monday that global technology company CenturyLink is angling to install fiber-optic cabling along a 7-mile stretch of Warm Springs Road.

The installation would include 31,300 feet of underground cable and 10,800 feet of aerial cable, with the underground cabling buried in plastic piping and aerial sections attached to existing Idaho Power Co. poles. If Sawtooth National Forest Supervisor Jim DeMaagd approves the project in January, other residents along Warm Springs Road would have the option to upgrade to fiber-optic service by early 2020.

“All applicable regulations and executive orders will be considered before a decision is made,” the Ranger District stated.

The project idea was sparked when a CenturyLink customer living 7.5 miles west of Ketchum put in a request for fiber-optic internet connection.

A debate over which type of non-wireless internet connection is “best”—fiber optic or copper—continues to play out, but fiber optic has asserted itself as the higher bandwidth option compared with its more dominant copper counterpart.

Using thin, transparent strands of glass the width of human hair, fiber-optic cables transmit data with pulsing infrared laser light, reaching speeds of 200,000 kilometers per second. The difference between fiber optic and copper literally comes down to the atomic level: fiber-optic wiring depends on photons to transmit data, and copper relies on electrons.

While fiber-optic internet is faster than copper, offering more gigabits of data transfer per second—thus reducing unpleasant buffering or video-lag for those sharing a network—installing it tends to be more expensive. But because fiber-optic cabling does not use electrical currents, it’s less susceptible to fire than is copper.

Before the Warm Springs project is approved, the Ranger District is seeking public comment and input. Comments can be submitted before Jan. 6 by email to comments-intermtn-sawtooth-ketchum@usda.gov or by U.S. mail to: Ketchum Ranger Station, P.O. Box 2356, Ketchum, ID 83340. Anyone wishing to provide feedback is encouraged to use “CenturyLink Fiber Optic Project” in the subject line.

Email the writer: ejones@mtexpress.com

Load comments