Anacortes, Washington, Signing Up Subscribers for Fiber Pilot

Anacortes, Washington, is ready to serve fast, reliable, and affordable fiber Internet access to its residents. The city is rolling out fiber to three pilot areas by the third quarter of 2020 and hopes to have citywide fiber coverage by 2023. Anacortes Fiber Internet began taking subscription sign-ups in October. The move is a major milestone in a plan that started more than three years ago, as the community looked for ways to improve communications between utility facilities, later expanding to establish this large pilot project.

Rapid Progress Expected

Residents and businesses living in the first pilot area, Central Business District, can expect so obtain fiber Internet access before the end of the year. Old Town is scheduled to finish within the first quarter of 2020 and M Avenue is set for the third quarter of 2020. Emily Schuh, Anacortes Administrative Service Director, hopes to have fiber Internet access available citywide by 2023. 

For a one-time $100 installment fee, residents can expect to pay $39 per month for 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) or $69 per month for 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Internet access. Businesses can subscribe to $89 per month for 100 Mbps or $149 a month for 1 Gbps. All speeds are symmetrical.

The city used the unconventional method of putting fiber optics in conduit within existing water pipe infrastructure. Using this strategy, the city will not have to concern themselves with road closures or storm damage. Since the fiber optics aren’t in contact with water, it has no impact on the water quality and has been greenlit by Department of Health. "Why didn't we think of this? You're just putting a water pipe inside a water pipe and then putting fiber optics in there,” said Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer.

Read more about the project on the business plan fact sheet [PDF].

Caught Between A Rock and A Body of Water

Home to 17,000 people, Anacortes, Washington, is located on the northern half of Fidalgo Island. Island communities are often restricted to poor connectivity because their physical separation from the mainland can make large Internet Service Providers (ISPs) unwilling to make the extra investment to connect what are often small population centers.

Anacortes faced a funding challenge due to the fact that Comcast served much of the city with FCC defined broadband speeds of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload, exempting the community from grants and loans for deployment. Services from the cable giant, however, were unreliable and local businesses wanted more upload capability. 

Comcast and DSL incumbent Frontier weren't interested in upgrading their infrastructures, so Anacortes first searched for other private sector providers to improve connectivity in the community. After considering their financial situation and the desires of the community, Anacortes decided the better option was to offer services directly to the public.

Read more coverage of their journey here.