Demand Driven by the People in Kitsap County, Washington - Episode 557 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast

Kitsap Public Utility District (KPUD) provides water, wastewater, and Internet service on Bainbridge Island and the neighboring peninsula in the Puget Sound in Washington state. It began building an open access fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network in 2016 to address decades of poor DSL service as the only option offered by the private marketplace. Today, the Kitsap fiber network has grown to 500 route-miles and offers service to more than 1,600 premises via almost a dozen ISPs with the help of a growing team. 

This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by three members of that team: Allison Cotner (Telecom, Business, and Projects Manager), Stephanie Hall (Telecom, Business Development, and Community Relations Specialist), and Thomas Schreyer (Network Engineer). They share the building momentum in Kitsap County, driven by ever-increasing demand by residents and businesses for the publicly owned fiber network. 

Christopher learns more Kitsap's innovation in using Local Utility Districts to drive expansion, which allows small groups of homes to petition KPUD to extend its network to their neighborhood. More than 50 have formed so far. He also hears about the flexible financing mechanisms the PUD and local government have created for households to foster expansion, and how happy residents are to see trucks in the area. Increased revenue has driven more investment in infrastructure to reach new households and new LUDs, which has meant more and more work for Stephanie and Thomas as they continue to build relationships with the local chamber of commerce and make sure that the network can sustain that growth far into the future.

Watch the video below to learn more about the expanding KPUD Fiber.

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This show is 29 minutes long and can be played on this page or via Apple Podcasts or the tool of your choice using this feed

Transcript below.

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Listen to other episodes here or view all episodes in our index. See other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Arne Huseby for the music. The song is Warm Duck Shuffle and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license.


Stephanie Hall (00:07):
Everybody wants it. Everybody realizes that KPUD has by far the most superior network in the area. I mean, it's the only 100% fiber optic network.

Christopher Mitchell (00:17):
Welcome to another episode of the Community Broadband Bits podcast. I'm Christopher Mitchell at the Institute for Local Self Reliance, and I'm on site today in Harrison Edwards Summit Studio at the Broadband communities summit in Houston, Texas. And having another great conversation. I hope, I mean, who knows at this point we're gonna be talking with Allison Cotner, the telecom business and projects manager at Kitsap Public Utility District. Welcome. Thank

Allison Cotner (00:48):

Christopher Mitchell (00:49):
We also have Stephanie Hall, Telecom, Business Development, and Community Relations Specialist at Kitsap Public Utility District. Welcome to the show, Stephanie.

Stephanie Hall (00:58):

Christopher Mitchell (00:59):
And we have Thomas Schreyer, who is the Kitsap Public Utility District network engineer. Welcome.

Thomas Schreyer (01:05):
Thank you for having me.

Christopher Mitchell (01:06):
So, Kitsap is is across the water or the sound, I guess, from Seattle, right? West? Yeah. So Kitsap Public Utility District. Tell me a little bit about it, and we're gonna pass around and each of you can tell me something different about it. A little Rashman style of Kitsap Public Utilities.

Thomas Schreyer (01:21):
I think Kitsap is pretty unique cuz it's a, it's a municipal telecom that's open access. We have different providers and our customers seem to really like that they can choose between the different ISPs, especially if like they run to a customer service issue, which happens sometimes and they

Christopher Mitchell (01:37):
Can switch pretty

Thomas Schreyer (01:38):
Easily. Yeah, it's pretty easy to switch. It just takes me a few minutes to swap the provisioning and they're good to go for the for the new ISP.

Christopher Mitchell (01:45):
Excellent. Stephanie, what, what would you add to what makes you like Kitsap? You

Stephanie Hall (01:50):
Know, the one thing that really drew me to the Kitsap PUD is that it was really a community owned network and really driven by the community in that, you know, when I was, you know, interviewing for a job and doing some research, I mean, I just, they, you know, they really reached out into the community, surveyed the community, and really asked, you know, what do you want? What do you need? And so for me that was something that I thought was really unique. Having come from the wireless industry, which as you know, is super competitive, super cutthroat and profit driven, that was a real appeal to me about the PUD.

Christopher Mitchell (02:23):
Excellent. And Allison, you've been there a little bit longer than than these two?

Allison Cotner (02:27):
Yes. I've been with the PUD now for almost eight years. I started off in customer service after applying for a finance job <laugh> and then went to to telecom about four years ago. So that's been a whole new experience. Came from a just finance world. Had no idea about telecom and so it's been super cool to learn about it and especially the open access part of it. I think it's just a great program to be able to provide that choice and have competitive pricing for our customers.

Christopher Mitchell (02:55):
So it's interesting that you all cite the open access as an important part of it. In that Angela Bennink who we've talked to in the past your boss, she was one of the people that made sure that Kitsap would have more freedom to move beyond that model. And I think there was a fear among some that the public utility districts would abandon open access. But this is a core part of your identity, it sounds like,

Allison Cotner (03:21):
For Kitsap. Yes. just because, I mean, I start off in telecom, start off in customer service and now I've progressed through and of course now project management business, the whole shebang being one of the first people who'd hear from the customers constantly complaining about the main privates who they're like, this is insane. We get charged whatever we want. And they're just like, we need to get, they're like, we can't just have one choice cuz they're like, they do whatever they want. So having this open access has been just a huge turning point. So people who actually understand the open access part, they love it and they're like, I think we need to just push this across and educate people and we absolutely agree. So as for right now, I think the educational piece will be huge to just be able to, I mean, cuz we still have to push out the information and educate our, so the community so they actually understand what it is and they actually go, oh, cuz right now if since our providers aren't the big names, they, they kind of kind of shy away from it. They're like, well I don't know this person so can I trust them? And it's like, well we are your public utility. You have asked for you, you petitioned our board to go, we need this, we need better service for our customers. And so based off of their needs, we made this. So I can see in the future maybe we could move into a different model, but for right now it's been a great thing for our customers.

Christopher Mitchell (04:31):
Am I correct in thinking that with Kitsap public Utility District, there's kind of two primary means in which you expand? One is I think you expand into rural areas as you're able to make the economics work and you might get grants mm-hmm. <Affirmative> and then other areas but also could be rural, but other areas you have a, both urban and suburban and, and rural footprints. I think you can be petitioned. This is wild. Yep. So tell me just briefly about that.

Allison Cotner (04:59):
So yeah, so we have the two main focus. So of course we use capital funds to build out that middle mile infrastructure and we focused on underserved, unserved communities to be able to be able to connect them in Washington. We can be petitioned by the community. So there's communities that come together and we've had communities as small as 10 people in up to 500 properties that have petitioned us saying, Hey, we need better service. And so it can actually be petitioned for any capital project. It doesn't have to just be telecom, it can be for water, anything.

Christopher Mitchell (05:29):
So do they define the geography or is there some natural geography?

Allison Cotner (05:34):
It's some natural and then there's also just we based, for telecom at least, we do it based off of who's gonna be benefited from our build from our current infrastructure. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> water kind of does the same so they can include any properties within from where the current infrastructure is into the community. So if we have certain homes that are outside or that could possibly increase the cost of the community, we may exclude them from the boundary of an L U D just because it may not be cost effective for them, but they'll, it'll be bring, it'll bring the infrastructure that much closer to that home. So it won't be so cost inhibiting.

Christopher Mitchell (06:07):
Okay. So they can't be too creative with how they draw it to get to that support? Yeah.

Allison Cotner (06:11):
It's not the community who creates it. They work with us and we work with them to just create, go, okay, well here's what we would think would be the best, just based off of who's benefiting. And most of the time they just, they trust the process with us. They, of course they have all the questions to answer them and try to make 'em feel as comfortable as possible. But we are the ones who actually create, we design it, we create that boundary for that l u d.

Christopher Mitchell (06:31):
Okay. So I interrupted you. You've had, you're fine that she was 10 to 500 properties?

Allison Cotner (06:36):
Yep. So right now we have the largest grant l u d we've had and it's just about 500 properties that are within the boundary

Christopher Mitchell (06:44):
And they pay for it.

Allison Cotner (06:46):
They, they pay for anything outside the grant. So we got a 2 million grant for this. And as of right now we capped their participation cost, what we call their prelim preliminary assessment at 8,500. Which everyone's, for a lot of places they're like, oh my gosh, it's super expensive. But we've had people who've paid more than that just because they're like, we need this.

Christopher Mitchell (07:10):
I remember something, this could be totally wrong. I spent a lot of years, like north of 30,000 for some.

Allison Cotner (07:15):
Yeah. I've had people just literally hand me a check for $30,000 to build to one home. It's insane.

Christopher Mitchell (07:21):
Wow. And then do they have an option of amortizing that? Yes.

Allison Cotner (07:25):
So what we do is for the L u D processes, homeowners are able, once we've actually finalized and the project and we actually connect them they have an option to pay the full assessment off for within 30 days. And we work with our Kitsap County treasurer's office. And then the homeowners are actually able to finance that over a 20 year term. There is interest applied to that cause it's like a bond. And so they can pay that off any time over the 20 year and it is guaranteed with a lien against the property.

Christopher Mitchell (07:51):
And this is something that has been done, I'm gonna guess more than 40 times at this point.

Allison Cotner (07:55):
Yeah, we are currently at almost 50 LDS at this time.

Christopher Mitchell (07:59):
That's wild. Are there any other, do you have a sense of other public utility districts? I've heard of this more in Kitsap than anywhere else. Wait,

Allison Cotner (08:05):
We are definitely the ones driving it. Cause we've had a lot of different utilities reach out to us, ask 'em about the process cuz they're like, we're interested. But I don't know if any others have actually utilized it. It's, but it's worked well for us and our customers appreciate cuz it we're, cuz we were told when we created this process that it was like fiber for the rich and it's like, unfortunately it kind of is cuz if, if you can't afford it, you're not gonna be able to get the infrastructure. So when we created this financing option for 'em we actually created a non-contiguous L U d, which is allows one a single home to be able to take that financing for 20 years. So we just try to create a mechanism to help people be able to get the service as well.

Christopher Mitchell (08:44):
So if if we're in a neighborhood, there's 25 homes that are super enthusiastic about it and the middle of them are five that don't want it, the five that don't want it get roped into the amortization, have to pay for it.

Allison Cotner (08:54):
So that's the cool thing. So within that l u d boundary we require at least 51% of the homes within that boundary mm-hmm. <Affirmative> to petition the board. And then if it's 51%, our board automatically moves forward with the process of forming the l u d. If it's less than that, then the, the community who is interested have to come forward and show that it's actually financially feasible for them to be able to pay for the infrastructure mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. so people can opt out. But a lot of times what we see is as soon as we start construction, we see at least 20% of people join into the project.

Christopher Mitchell (09:25):
Who originally might have said no. Yep.

Allison Cotner (09:27):
Who abso who opted out. They're like, Nope, this is insane. There's no way I'm paying for that. And their neighbors finally talked to 'em. They're like, okay, we're joining.

Christopher Mitchell (09:34):
So if I say no and then I sell my house a year later after it's been constructed, do the new homeowners, are they able to opt in? Yes,

Allison Cotner (09:41):
Absolutely. So we build it. So every home within that ho that community of the L u D can actually connect in the future.

Christopher Mitchell (09:47):
Do they have to pay a rate similar to what the other neighbors have paid? So

Allison Cotner (09:50):
This is the kicker. So this is where this

Christopher Mitchell (09:52):
Is, this is exactly where it gets

Allison Cotner (09:53):
Interesting. This is, this is where it gets really interesting cuz we don't want the people who say, Hey, I'm gonna, I'm gonna wait because it's gonna be cheaper for me in the future. So for an L U D, they actually have to pay that l u d assessment, the final assessment amount plus additional construction to connect their home from the infrastructure. So if it's 125 feet from our infrastructure to the home, they have to pay for that plus the l u D assessment. So it, it makes them kind of go, okay. So we always tell 'em if the more people who join at the beginning of the project reduces that final cost for everyone. So it kind of penalizes them for waiting, thinking that they're gonna benefit from their neighbors who, who took the initial cost.

Christopher Mitchell (10:28):
And the public utility district then I think has some extra revenue above your costs at that point. So does that go to like other builds that you're working on

Allison Cotner (10:36):
Or We do, we just add that into our capital funds so we can help extend our infrastructure. Cuz most of the time those LEDs, they've actually benefited from our capital funds, be able to extend that middle mile. And so we just roll that back into the capital fund so we can extend more to those areas.

Christopher Mitchell (10:49):
So Stephanie, I'm curious, all this stuff we're talking about, do you feel confidently you both you and Thomas are newer do you feel confident in like, explaining all of this to you, your neighbors and things like that?

Stephanie Hall (11:01):
Absolutely not. Not in that, not in that much detail, but I would and we've, we have this conversation because the, our fiber is fairly close to my neighborhood and we have one provider and most of my neighbors I believe would be interested in getting on KPUD fiber. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. So we've talked about, you know, just the idea of let's get 'em together and you can kind of see how the process works kind of from A to Z.

Christopher Mitchell (11:24):
So in business development then what is your primary task?

Stephanie Hall (11:28):
You know, so that's still evolving I think. Cuz it's the, it's the really the first time that the telecommunications division has brought in someone to do community relations in business development. So mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, you know, really the first part was just kind of a crash course, like drinking from a fire hose. I think I heard, heard someone say earlier just, you know, the acronyms, the learning about an L u d learning where the, where the fiber is, you know, the areas that we serve, you know, the benefits, all of, you know, all of that. So, I mean, I've just been doing the very typical, you know, reaching out into the community, the Economic Development Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce. I've had the opportunity to work. We have a local broadband action team as part of the, the BEAD funding. So we've been working on an action plan for our county, which has been an amazing opportunity to talk with our, you know, community partners and talk with them about broadband and availability and digital equity. So, and it's been a good way to kind of start to and continue to develop those partnerships.

Christopher Mitchell (12:27):
One of the things I'm curious about is you're talking to a business or something like that and being new to this, how do you feel confident? Like, like you're going in, are you worried that they're gonna ask you things? You don't have to say, ah, I'll get back to you on this. I'll get back to you on that. You were in wireless for a while, so you, I guess do you have a, cuz I, I keep, I'm split in my head between thinking about you as being new to the, the utility, but you have a lot of industry experience. Yeah,

Stephanie Hall (12:51):
The, I mean, everybody wants it. I mean, everybody realizes that. I mean, KPUD has by far the most superior network in the area. I mean, it's the only 100% fiber optic network. So confident. Yes. Mm-hmm. <Affirmative>, I mean, you know that you're selling a great product anytime you have a quality product, it's like absolutely. You know, if they wanna start talking about circuits then I would bring Thomas with me mm-hmm. <Affirmative> or Alison with me.

Christopher Mitchell (13:16):
What are, what are some of the fun conversations you've had? Cause I, I imagine you've had both weird and also like really rewarding where people are probably showing a lot of love for KPUD. But there's some, there's some that I've had fun with just over the years with like one that one that I'll never forget is I was talking to a utility and they were talking about how their customers like the utility so much they'll offer the lineman beers. It's, and, and like tell lineman do not <laugh> drink beers with the homeowners. <Laugh>.

Thomas Schreyer (13:44):
We have had not, not beers, but they have come out and offered our guys like drinks and like water and stuff, which is kind of nice. Yeah. Yeah. Cookies, that was the big one for a little

Christopher Mitchell (13:53):
Bit, little better than alcoholic beverages. <Laugh>,

Thomas Schreyer (13:56):
They, a lot of times, especially when we're initial hookups, some the guys will just have the customer come out and just, just thank 'em. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> just constantly just thank 'em as they're leaving it.

Christopher Mitchell (14:03):
It's nice. There was a panel where they were talking about, I've heard this from other electric co-ops. There's someone who was greeted with a shotgun or another weapon where someone is like, don't come on my property.

Thomas Schreyer (14:13):
Yeah. I could definitely see that, especially once you get into the rural areas, you have to make sure that the customer knows you're coming. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>. It's very important. Otherwise, if you just go without them knowing what, why, why are you there?

Christopher Mitchell (14:24):
There was a great story from a rural electric in Virginia where they had had someone who ran them off the property, was furious with them and they said, don't worry, don't worry, don't worry. We're you know, we're not gonna, we're not gonna come back. And and they said something like, you know, we were just gonna we're just gonna, just trying to do something to get the fiber optic system up, but we can go around, we don't have to do it. And the guy said, fiber optic is that Internet <laugh>? And and he said I guess they called him back on the phone to tell him that they weren't gonna come back. And it was fine. They found a different route and he says, that Internet, I want that <laugh>. He said, tell 'em to come back in the morning. I'll have coffee for him. <Laugh>, the guy had had a dISPute over like tens of dollars in the past and he was still angry at the utility, but he really wanted Internet <laugh>.

Thomas Schreyer (15:04):
I can see that everyone, everyone is like, really wants that Internet. It's, it's great cuz you need it to be able to like work for school, all, all, all these things. Like it's becoming an integral part of society. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>

Christopher Mitchell (15:16):
Do you do home, you do the home hookups then?

Thomas Schreyer (15:19):
I mainly just do the CPE provisioning. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> and I do all of our core network.

Christopher Mitchell (15:26):
Okay. So you're mostly at a desk.

Thomas Schreyer (15:27):
Yeah, I do spend of time

Christopher Mitchell (15:28):
At desk. You just hear from the field guys then?

Thomas Schreyer (15:30):
I do. I I talk to them daily as they're like setting everything up. Mm-Hmm.

Christopher Mitchell (15:33):
<Affirmative> and I, I, I'm always aware of my gendered language cuz they're not all guys but <laugh>. So I'm very curious about what you're actually doing then. Cause I feel like people hear the word provisioning and they're curious what that involves.

Thomas Schreyer (15:51):
So it, it's setting up the device to actually allow the Internet to come, but not just any Internet, but the right Internet from like the, the service, the correct service provider. Mm-Hmm <affirmative> making sure that the right speed is constantly going through from beginning to end. That way that they're not having any issues like loading a video or anything like that.

Christopher Mitchell (16:08):
And are you using an active ethernet?

Thomas Schreyer (16:11):
We are all active ethernet. Okay. I have looked in the GPON, but we haven't, we haven't made any decisions on that yet.

Christopher Mitchell (16:17):
Yeah. Well I think at this point XGS Pond would be a smart far Yeah.

Thomas Schreyer (16:19):

Christopher Mitchell (16:21):
But, but that's, so then when someone calls in and they're saying, I wanna go from provider A to provider B, then what do you actually have to do?

Thomas Schreyer (16:27):
So for me it's just going in to the cp. I just remove the, the old configurations that were for that. And

Christopher Mitchell (16:34):
That's the customer premise equipment That is, yeah.

Thomas Schreyer (16:36):
Customer premise equipment or they also have ONT, which is the

Christopher Mitchell (16:40):
Optical network terminal. Yeah.

Thomas Schreyer (16:42):
Yeah. <Laugh> that one. So that was actually a new term. Both of those were new terms for me when I started working here. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> that took me a while. Cause at first it was like, oh, cpe and then all of a sudden someone's like, ONT. And I was like, oh no, which one is which? And I figured out, oh, they're just the same. Well

Christopher Mitchell (16:55):
The o t is a subset of cpe cuz you could have other stuff at the home too. Oh,

Thomas Schreyer (16:58):
Okay. Okay. Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell (16:59):
Yeah. So so basically it's like a little computer on the side of the home or inside the home now, I

Thomas Schreyer (17:03):
Guess. Yeah, we do all of ours on the outside that way. Oh, you do? Okay. Yeah. And then we, the ISP then connects to that and they do all their home, all the stuff on the inside of the home. Home.

Christopher Mitchell (17:12):
They get to drill into the wall.

Thomas Schreyer (17:13):
Yeah. We do have to drill one time though for power. Sure. I, I take off the old configuration for that is for the previous s p and then I will take and reset the CP because I wanna make sure that it actually fully resets, it drops all of the old information. And then I'll go in and I'll put the new configurations in for the new issp and as soon as I'm done, I just check to make sure that they have a Mac address coming across and it's actually making it all the way through our network. And then I'm like, oh, they're good and I'll sign the the contracting cos.

Christopher Mitchell (17:41):
Okay. So, and you use the, the COS system, which Yes. Sometimes people call cos, but

Thomas Schreyer (17:46):
Cs. Yeah. Yeah.

Christopher Mitchell (17:48):
Do you still do I'll probably come back to Allison here. Do you still do the service zones, things like that? Or how do you work with communities to identify? I mean, I guess it's a different question, which is they have a service zones project product to help identify demand. Do you use that or do you use others? So

Allison Cotner (18:06):
We have used that. Angela was the one who really set up the cos system originally when I first started. And of course we were such a small group, we weren't able to stay on top of it as much as we'd like mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. So that is actually what Stephanie and I are working on right now. We're working with cos and we're creating those zones so we can better provide that information to our customers so they understand, hey, this is an area that can be built, but that way it can drive our LUDs instead of the community coming to us. We can go, Hey, we've, we've established this zone and this would be a great utility project. Like, let's move forward. So let's get 60% interest and then let's build it for you.

Christopher Mitchell (18:38):
Have you had an issue with uneven demand? Like, I mean, I can imagine all of a sudden one summer you have like, people are like, let's do 10 of these things and they're going and then, and then, you know, you're, you're trying to figure out how to staff correctly to get all this done. I

Allison Cotner (18:52):
Gotta tell you, Angela and I were going crazy when it was just the two of us. And of course we've got to hire a new staff. And of course with her moving to the general manager position now it's, we're just trying to fill those gaps as well. But yeah, I mean every year, I mean every month there's a different influx of whether it can have a lull and then you're like, oh, you're like, is something happening? Like, and then all of a sudden you have 10 customers that just hit you. They're like, I'm ready to connect. And you're, so it's just them getting the educational piece. And of course we give 'em an estimate request when they send one in and then they have to ask their questions and then they go, yep, I need this right now.

Christopher Mitchell (19:26):
Excellent. No, Stephanie, I, one of the things I wanted ask you and Thomas both was how you got up to date. So we're gonna come back in a second to the O N T and all that, but what are some of the things that were different from the wireless world that you had to learn?

Stephanie Hall (19:39):
You know, I thought going into it, I thought that they were more similar <laugh> colleague than they actually are.

Christopher Mitchell (19:45):
My colleague Ry, who joined us and and does leads our research team. He was a a professor in American history and he was a very big enthusiast in tech and he thought it's gonna be, he had an edge. And he said that he found that also it was more challenging to get into the broadband world and figure it all out. I mean, I, I was ready to quit a month in with just trying to figure out a clec and Ilec and all this other stuff, the telecom language, very hard for me. <Laugh>.

Stephanie Hall (20:09):
Yeah. Well I think for, you know, for me the big difference is, you know, it's the putting it the infrastructure. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, I mean, you actually have to build the infrastructure and you have to build, you know, the infrastructure to the home. You know, wireless, you go to the store, you buy a phone and I mean, of course there's infrastructure too mm-hmm. <Affirmative>. but by the time, you know, I got into, you know, the towers were already there. So, I mean, I think it's just that whole construction piece was so new to me. And so that was a huge learning curve for me is, you know, you look at a neighborhood and it's like there's demand. It's like we need to deliver mm-hmm. <Affirmative> because that's what you do in wireless. It's like, you know, you have a customer, there's a business customer. And it's so funny because I kept going to Allison, I'm like, well, we can do this, right? Like, how do we do this? And she's like, yeah, but there are 10 steps before we can actually offer service. So I think that was probably the biggest learning curve for me is like getting my mind around there is tructure and that's required, there's infrastructure required, there's a lot of planning mm-hmm. <Affirmative> that's required. There's communication that's required before services actually delivered to the customer.

Christopher Mitchell (21:12):
We talk about that on the connect this show where the difference between wireless and, and fiber optics. And the wireless is kind of like and Matt Larson says this is like a regulatory avoidance. You, because you don't have to pull permits, you know, you're not, you're not digging up the streets. You're not trying to get on Poles <laugh>. And so it is a, it's a whole different world and a lot of that is outside your timeframe too. You're relying on others. So yeah, I can see how that would be challenging.

Stephanie Hall (21:39):
Yeah, I mean it's, it's definitely an industry where there are a lot more partners involved. Whereas wireless, I mean, you're just, you're a single operator. I mean, you're just kind of doing business on your own. At least that's the way it appeared. Where this you, I mean, it definitely requires, you know, that you have those community partnerships.

Christopher Mitchell (21:58):
And so Thomas, how have you dug into this too? You're actually having to configure the system. So I feel like there's two possibilities. Like I think you might be thinking, wait, is this something where the machine is broken or am I just not understanding this route? Why not <laugh>?

Thomas Schreyer (22:12):
So yeah, we, we've had some issues, especially when I first started working with stp. We didn't have STP at all on the network. Wendy, I don't know what

Christopher Mitchell (22:19):
S STP is.

Thomas Schreyer (22:19):
So S STP is a spanning tree protocol. It is used to prevent loops within a network which is very important because you want your traffic to go one way mm-hmm. <Affirmative> so that way that the traffic doesn't collide and then all of a sudden your customer is down and not being able to connect Internet. Yeah, we really needed that cuz it provides redundancy for your network, which is hugely important. You want. So if one part of your network, like a fiber goes down in one spot, you can, that customers stay up over here because there's a separate route that keeps them going. Okay.

Christopher Mitchell (22:49):
So that was one issue then that,

Thomas Schreyer (22:50):
That was a, that was a pretty big issue. I just recently got our, our core network set up to actually have it. And within a week we had a huge fiber break. What, what had caused 400 customers, more than 400 customers to go down. But they didn't, only one customer went down. So

Christopher Mitchell (23:06):
Did you tell Angela that, that you were taking the afternoon off because you'd already <laugh> you were so productive that day? <Laugh>,

Thomas Schreyer (23:13):
I was very proud of that day. That was a, that was a good moment right there.

Christopher Mitchell (23:17):
That's excellent. So before you were doing that, was there, was that just not something that was being done? Or how did it work?

Thomas Schreyer (23:22):
So the previous engineer was planning it. Unfortunately wasn't able to implement it before he left. Okay. And so I, I just took up the project and I, I, I just worked through it really hard. I had a lot of experience with STP when I was in the military. I used it all the time just when we were setting up our networks. So that was, so it was something I knew I just needed, it was different because it was an active network. Setting up on an network is a lot more nerve-wracking cuz one little typo could bring everything down for like two, three hours while you're fixing it. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative> because typo sometimes is so hard to find.

Christopher Mitchell (23:55):
Yes. Especially when it's your own. Yes. Yeah. My, my my limited exam work with zone dns, I, I feel like I'm always physically sweating whenever I'm working with that <laugh>. So DNS zones I should say, I think shows how often I work with it. <Laugh>. are there other things where you've had to come up to speed? I mean like, you know, coming in with a network engineering from the military, like do you have a sense of like what it's like working for a public utility district and that sort of thing? So

Thomas Schreyer (24:21):
It was a big jump, like a big change for me cuz it's open access. It was, it's less security based cuz with the military ones I had to have lots and lots of different levels of security on top of the network. Well this one we have the, the security necessary to protect the customers, but I don't have to like worry about getting a SAT link up that has crypto going across it. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>

Christopher Mitchell (24:44):
Still pretty important but you A little less pressure.

Thomas Schreyer (24:46):
A lot less pressure. <Laugh>.

Christopher Mitchell (24:49):
Yeah. I mean it's not like we have a problem with leakers coming outta the military and challenges around those areas.

Thomas Schreyer (24:54):
So, oh man, that one I was, I kind of faced Palm when I saw that recent one. I was like, I can't believe that

Christopher Mitchell (24:59):
<Laugh>. Yes. As this is being built out, how will you know that it's successful? Like what is a measure that you have for knowing that this has been a wise move for KPUD?

Allison Cotner (25:09):
Well, when I started telecom we were at 200 customers and we are now at 1650, which is small compared to the, some of the other providers and networks that are here. But for us, that's a huge goal. I mean, for being such a small team. I mean we have six installers right now, which when I started there was three. And so I think that's a huge success. We're starting to get our name out there with our new hires. We'll be able to be able to push that out and educate the community that much more. So I would be totally supportive of the privates if they actually took and upgraded their infrastructure to provide better service. Mm-Hmm. <affirmative>, but they're not. So they're coming to us as a public utility going, you need to help fix this. And so if I say that we have 1,650 customers happy and connected right now, that's a win. And I, I hope that we can get tens of thousands more here with and with the help of grant funding and help reduce their, their construction cost. I, I think we will. That's, that's all we care about.

Christopher Mitchell (26:05):
And because of your model, you don't really have that pressure of saying we have a 40% take rate or however. Correct. Cuz the infrastructure is paid for in the way that you build it. Yep. That's fascinating.

Stephanie Hall (26:15):
Yeah, I mean I think it's just a matter of like connecting people, you know, connected Kitsap County. I mean, I think that's kind of what we all want and that's kind of the discussion here, you know, this week is talking about, you know, getting people connected and, you know, I think, you know, to Allison's point, I think the education is a huge piece of it and the community engagement. So just so that all Kitsap County residents know that KPUD is an option if they want fiber and that they understand how to go about getting it. And I think those are the, you know, would be kind of the key things that, you know, just make sure that it's a household name. So when they see, when they see a KPD truck, they're like, Hey, you know, they deliver water as well as fiber Internet.

Christopher Mitchell (26:54):
Excellent. Any other measures of success? Thomas?

Thomas Schreyer (26:57):
We didn't have a very good documentation in inside of the devices on like the port descriptions as well as an actual network diagram. So that was something i, I put together and worked really hard to do and I got nice, this nice, this nice big diagram now that shows me all my switches and how they connect and what buildings they're in. I got it all nice and set up and I also went through and I cleaned up all those configurations that were old or just wrong descriptions. And now everything, it, it's makes it much easier for me to be able to navigate through my own network and be able to troubleshoot quicker.

Christopher Mitchell (27:34):
Yeah. It's definitely a, a result of, of being understaffed and trying to make it work. But I feel like a lot of people feel like documentation is something you can do tomorrow, but I'm glad you got it done.

Thomas Schreyer (27:44):
Never. I, documentation is a big thing. That was something I learned in the military. Documentation. Documentation. Documentation.

Christopher Mitchell (27:49):
Yeah. Well that's something I think a lot of folks come to only after they've missed a lot of opportunities to do the documentation. <Laugh>. so thank you all. It's been a wonderful conversation. Thank you.

Thomas Schreyer (27:59):
Thank you.

Ry Marcattilio (28:00):
We have transcripts for this and other podcasts available at muni Email with your ideas for the show. Follow Chris on Twitter, his handles at Community Nets. Follow muni stories on Twitter, the handles at muni networks. Subscribe to this and other podcasts from ilsr, including building local power, local energy rules, and the Composting for Community Podcast. You can access them anywhere you get your podcasts. You can catch the latest important research from all of our initiatives if you subscribe to our monthly While you're there, please take a moment to donate your support in any amount. Keeps us going. Thank you to Arne Hughes B for the song, warm Duck Shuffle, licensed through Creative Commons. This was the Community Broadband Bits podcast. Thanks for listening.