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jefferson county wa
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The Public Utility District Taking on the Olympic Peninsula - Episode 558 of the Community Broadband Bits Podcast
This week on the podcast, Christopher is joined by Will O'Donnell, Broadband and Communications Director at Jefferson County Public Utility District in Washington State, to talk about the Herculean task facing the PUD: how to deploy an open access fiber network to the utility's 21,000 meters in some of the least-dense parts of the state.
It's a project that will likely cost more than $200 million, but Jefferson County PUD is getting started now. It's using $50 million to reach the first 4,000 households over the next few years, covering miles of coastline and forest from the Hood Canal and Dabob Bay across the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean. Will shares how the combination of federal and state funding, as well as recent legislative changes freeing the PUDs up to offer retail broadband service, turned around local leadership since a 2019 study that showed intractable barriers to success. Now, Jefferson County is moving full-steam ahead. Construction begins later this year, and the PUD plans to operate as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) on the network alongside others. The secret sauce to keeping costs down and being successful? Using tried-and-true, conservative deployment models (at least at first), and a retail plan with managed Wi-Fi at its core to keep costs low and truck rolls to a minimum.
Residents are already clamoring for the service.
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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.
Jefferson County, Washington’s Public Utility District (PUD) is just the latest to take advantage of a flood of new grants — and recently-eliminated restrictions on community broadband — to expand access to affordable fiber across the state.
Over the last few months, the PUD - situated northwest of Seattle, just across the Puget Sound - has been awarded more than $11 million in grants, including $1 million from the Washington State Public Works board, and another $9.7 million in Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration grants doled out by the Washington State Department of Commerce. The funds will help the PUD connect 2,600 homes in Gardiner, Quilcene, Cape George, Discovery Bay, and Marrowstone Island over the next two years.
Locally Operated Infrastructure, Affordable Prices, Fast Speeds
Construction is expected to start later in 2022, with the first subscribers to come online sometime in the first half of 2023. A project breakdown says they hope to provide basic speeds of 100 Megabits per second (Mbps) for $65 a month, and speeds of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for $90 a month. The network will be open access, which means that additional ISPs (including, presumably, those currently offering service on the existing network) will be able to continue into the expanded areas.The PUD plans to offer a low-income tier for $45/month ($15 after the Affordable Connectivity Program subsidy), which is welcome to see.
Seattle has received a lot of attention as it's struggled with the concept of a community network, but people in the small community of Brinnon are moving past the talking phase. A group of residents are tired of waiting for high quality Internet access and don't expect a national provider to bring it to them any time soon. People in Brinnon are considering a fixed wireless approach pioneered in the San Juan Islands, which is a few hours north.
Community members have formed a nonprofit, West Canal Community Broadband Project, to bring wireless Internet service to the town and neighboring communities. Two hundred people have already signed up on the nonprofit’s website.
The community is located about 25 miles due west (62 miles by car to get through the Sound) and home to about 800 people. People in Brinnon with the best connections have DSL, but many use satellite or mobile Internet access. Data caps associated with satellite and mobile plans drive up the costs and neither source is reliable. With such a small population, the locals don't expect any incumbent investment soon; they're exercising their self-reliant muscles and hashing out the details of better local connectivity on their own.
If all goes as planned, Brinnon could see better Internet access options by next summer.
Very Little Connectivity
The community center and the school have high-speed Internet service thanks to a federal grant project in Jefferson County, but residents and businesses struggle to connect.
The goal of this wireless project is fast, reliable Internet service without data limits for both business and residents. The residential download speed will be 25 Megabits per second (Mbps), and business connections will have speeds of 50 Mbps. Customized plans with speeds of up to 250 Mbps will also be offered. No word yet on expected upload speeds. The cost for each tier of service has not yet been decided.
The DIY Wireless Project
When communities decide to proceed with publicly owned infrastructure, they often aim for open access models. Open access allows more than one service provider to offer services via the same infrastructure. The desire is to increase competition, which will lower prices, improve services, and encourage innovation.
It seems straight forward, but open access can be more complex than one might expect. In addition to varying models, there are special challenges and financing considerations that communities need to consider.
In order to centralize our information on open access, we’ve created the new Open Access Networks resource page. We’ve gathered together some of our best reference material, including links to previous MuniNetworks.org stories, articles from other resources, relevant Community Broadband Bits podcast episodes, case studies, helpful illustrations, and more.
- Open Access Arrangements
- Financing Open Access Networks
- Challenges for Open Access Networks
- U.S. Open Access Networks
- Planned Open Access Networks
Check it out and share the link. Bookmark it!
Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet) was just a dream back in 2000, but, fifteen years later, it’s one of the largest networks in the state of Washington. NoaNet is celebrating fifteen years of accomplishments, so we compiled fifteen fun facts everyone should know about this community network.
1. One of the first Open Access networks in the U.S.
Back in 2000, people in rural Washington watched as the dot-com and telecom boom passed them by. Frustrated that large ISPs refused to build infrastructure near them, the people created NoaNet and allowed anyone to use it through Open Access. This type of design encourages multiple service providers to share the infrastructure and local communities own the network.
2. Almost 2,000 miles of fiber
You know that amazing, next-generation technology that Google is rolling out in select cities across the U.S.? Yeah, people in Washington started using fiber optic cables fifteen years ago to bring high-speed Internet to their communities. Now, NoaNet extends almost 2,000 miles through both rural and metro areas.
3. It’s a giant Institutional Network
With all that fiber, NoaNet connects 170 communities and around 2,000 schools, libraries, hospitals, and government buildings. It serves as a middle mile network, connecting the public institutions of small towns to the greater Internet.
4. 40% of Washington government traffic, by 2007
And that’s just within the first seven years!
5. 61 last mile providers
From NoaNet’s infrastructure, private providers bring connectivity the last mile to homes and businesses. Having publicly-owned middle mile reduces the capital costs of building last mile infrastructure - that means more providers can compete with one another and better prices for everyone. Currently, there are over 260,000 customers!
Another county in Washington will soon be connected via a community owned fiber network. Peter Quinn, of the Economic Development Committee Team Jefferson, tells us that the Public Utility District of Jefferson County will be investing in the new infrastructure. The Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), will operate the Jefferson County network for at least the next five years.
Nonprofit NoaNet has been expanding wholesale fiber infrastructure across Washington since 2000. NoaNet works with local communities to bring the fiber backbone to community anchor institutions (CAIs) such as schools, libraries, hospitals, and government facilities.
The Jefferson County project is funded with a $3.2 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grant and a county contribution of $500,000. The network should measure approximately 70-100 miles, and connections to CAIs are expected to be 100 Mbps, however the planning is still in process.
The network will connect community anchor institutions including county schools, public safety facilities, city and county government facilities, several local libraries, healthcare clinics and hospitals, and state parks. Towns that will receive anchor connections include the City of Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, the Port of Port Townsend, Quilcene, Brinnon, and Chimacum. Approximately 90 community anchor institutions will be connected through fiber or the planned wireless network. Wireless will be offered where geography and expense preclude fiber installation.
Construction will start April 8th with a planned completion date of August 5th, 2013. Jefferson PUD will own the network and independent ISPs will provide service to the anchor institutions and have the option of expanding the network to serve local businesses and residents.
The plan is divided into three "tiers" and described on the Jefferson PUD Broadband Project website:
Tier 1 are anchor institutions that must have service to be compliant with the grant.