Umpqua tribe, AFN providing phone service to school district

Cooperation between the City of Ashland and a Bend-based communications company will save the Ashland School District an estimated $45,000 over three years.

“I’m pleased in these days of financial woes, we can provide assistance to the schools,” Mayor Alan DeBoer said.

The district recently awarded its telephone service contract to Rio Communications, an integrated telecommunications service provider based in Bend. The company is in turn owned by the Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Tribe of Indians.

Rio will use the Ashland Fiber Network to provide service for 68 telephone lines at eight locations throughout the school district, replacing former provider Qwest by July.

The deal costs the school district about $28 per line, per month – costs which are expected to stay fairly level in the next few years, according to Rio Communication Sales Manager and Ashland High School Graduate Jeff Rhoden.

“We were really pleased we were able to win the bid,” Rhoden said. “The Ashland solution is special because the switch technology Rio is using allows us to deliver our services over AFN rather than utilizing traditional copper facilities.”

Rio Communications provides data and telecommunications services throughout Oregon, with offices in Bend, Eugene, Medford, Portland and Roseburg.

Ashland is the only city besides Tacoma, Wash., which supplies fiber to homes and businesses in the city limits. Because of the existing AFN infrastructure, the Ashland School District will get phone and telecommunications services at a lower cost, according to AFN Director Dick Wanderscheid.

“I’m pleased we’re able to forge, with Rio Communications’ assistance, this partnership between the City of Ashland and Ashland public schools,” Wanderscheid said. “It’s gratifying to see AFN bring about real solutions.”

The deal was welcomed by Ashland Schools Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

“In times of financial constraints, we value close community partnerships,” Di Chiro said. “This is another example of us working together in a win-win situation.”

“Every little bit helps,” Di Chiro added.

The deal was aided by the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, which partially funded the changeover from regular analogue telephones in the district to digital units which could connect better with AFN.

The district had already been connected to the city’s AFN system, which it used for Internet connection services.

“As far as the technical parts, I still type on a manual typewriter,” Cow Creek Band Chairman Sue Shaffer said. “But from a tribal perspective, where we come from is where we are – the land of the Umpqua. Our focus is building people, and education is always a top priority.”

The Cow Creek Band, headquartered in Roseburg, owns several diverse businesses, including Seven Feathers Hotel & Casino Resort, Umpqua Indian Power Cooperative, Umpqua Indian Foods, and Seven Feathers Truck & Travel Center.

The Tribe also contributes regularly to nonprofit groups in Southern Oregon that support family and education.

By Myles Murphy Ashland Daily Tidings



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