Fiber Optics

Jeff Baine talks about fiber optic internet Friday morning at the Lewis County PUD in Chehalis.

The Lewis County Public Utility District has long heard the concerns of citizens living in rural and more isolated areas about a lack of adequate internet connection and the negative impact it has on their daily lives.

Fiber Optics

Fiber optic internet cables ranging in size are on display Friday morning at the Lewis County PUD in Chehalis.

PUD General Manager Chris Roden and Jeff Baine, the information systems and telecommunications manager, said they have started working on a plan to provide high-speed internet to those citizens with the help of a $50,000 from the Department of Commerce’s Community Economic Revitalization Board to conduct a study to identify the need in the county for better internet service in the form of fiber optic telecommunication lines. 

The study is aiming to identify unserved and underserved individuals and areas in the county when it comes to internet connection.

“The study really is about getting the community involved and going out with broadband action teams and doing studies, doing polls to see if people have adequate service, to see if they have service at all,” said Baine. “There is a defined need and we’ll put some technical merit behind what our gut tells us and then we would go out and look at all the different grant sources that are available,” added Roden. 

Fiber Optics

Jeff Baine shows off a thin glass fiber inside the cable Friday morning at the Lewis County PUD in Chehalis.

The PUD has already received a lot of input from the community and support from cities and the county. Roden said that he recently heard from a Centralia College student who lives in a smaller community can cannot get good enough internet to complete her assignments at home and must go back into town. Another woman said that she cannot install a home security unit because of the poor internet connection in her area. 

Roden mentioned a conference he attended for the National Broadband Association. “They talked about a study they have been doing on the effect of property value in communities that do not have adequate broadband. Homes are worth about 2 percent less and unemployment levels are about a quarter percent higher,” he said. 

Fiber Optics

Chris Roden talks to Jeff Baine on the phone about fiber optic internet Friday morning at the Lewis County PUD in Chehalis.

In many smaller communities, the telecommunication equipment is outdated and slow such as dial-up connection. The PUD’s plan is to install the fiber optic lines and then form a public-private partnership with an internet service provider to provide internet to the customers. 

“I’m hoping to have some good partnerships where we can run the backbone and then through a partnership, they can take it the last mile into the home and deliver service to the customer,” said Roden. The PUD is nonprofit and community-owned. They are statutorily prohibited from providing retail service so they must partner with an internet service provider. 

“After the study, we’re hoping to have shovel-ready projects to get the ‘highway’ or the large fiber out to these areas so we can then focus on how are we going to work with other providers to get these people service,” said Baine.

Fiber Optics

Chris Roden talks about Lewis County PUD Friday morning in Chehalis.

In this stage of the process, the PUD is looking to gather as much information and letters of support from the community as possible. The more support they have the better their chance of securing grants to pay for the project. The PUD said they encourage input from the community and want to know about issues people are having with their internet connection. 

“It’s important to get the community together and help us through this to make sure their areas are addressed and go from there,” said Baine. The study and accompanying paperwork should be completed by January and a statement of work should be ready by March, according to Baine. 

 

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(3) comments

HeavyHemi

I can already answer this. Unless you're in an incorporated area, you have Centurylink DSL and maybe 1.5mbs after midnight or you have Sat or use your cell. Or you get extremely lucky and hook up with Breeze Wifi, which set me up with a 50mbs unlimited WISP service for a very reasonable price. (dish is in a cedar tree)11msec delay, great for gaming and no data caps. Where's my fee? Ha ha.

tgriffith

I really hope this is applying to the whole county not just the West end. We are right on Hwy 12 and the only thing available to us is Satellite or cell which both are hit and miss. Plus we have a fiber optic line that runs right past us. I guess we can only hope.

Zebracomputers

As a long term local computer repair facility owner, we know the challenges faced by rural citizens for any kind of high speed internet. We at Zebra Computers will do whatever we can to help get true high speed, low latency Internet to truly rural citizens.

This concept of the PUD bringing the main line, so to speak and having an independent company like Rainier Connect, or Centurylink, or TDS, or Toledo Telephone, or perhaps a wireless provider like Cascade Networks (Wave) provide the last mile, depending on the topography of the area.

I think the lowest cost would be a multi-access point wireless system like Cascade Networks (Wave Broadband) already offers in some areas to the West of the hills to the East of Cent-Cheh.

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