With the assistance of Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, the Lewis County Public Utility District has secured a federal Community Connected grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture worth about $3 million to expand broadband access in Chehalis, Adna and Boistfort Valley areas.
“Access to reliable internet continues to be an issue for too many residents in Lewis County and other rural communities — many have no access at all. And it’s not only frustrating if you’re running a business or communicating with family and friends, but it’s also a threat to the health and safety of senior citizens, families, and others who can’t access telehealth or other important internet-based resources,” Herrera Beutler said in a Friday statement.
Willie Painter, public affairs manager with the PUD, said in a statement that the public utility is “excited to have received this grant award from the USDA, and appreciates Congresswoman Herrera Beutler’s support of this project. We hope this will be one of several more state and federal broadband grant awards to come as the PUD works to deploy broadband infrastructure to the communities which need it.”
This continues a trend of accumulated grant funding the PUD is going out for to help its nearly 29,000 homes and businesses get access to high-speed internet. A customer survey previously conducted by the PUD found that about 77% don’t have access to reliable high-speed internet services.
Earlier this month, the PUD was awarded nearly $9.5 million in funding from the state’s Public Works Board for infrastructure in the Mineral, Elbe, Ashford and Vader areas.
The PUD — as well as the county government, in an agreement with ToledoTel — are waiting to hear back early next year from a large grant sum laid out in the Infrastructure Acceleration Grant program to bring infrastructure out to the Randle-Packwood areas.