Note: This content was produced by the Economic Alliance of Lewis County as part of the monthly Economic Report supplement published in The Chronicle. To learn more about the Alliance, visit https://lewiscountyalliance.org/.
At a business meeting of the Lewis County Commissioners on Jan. 3, the county approved a grant contract with the Washington State Broadband Office awarding Lewis County $23.5 million for the installation of fiber optic broadband infrastructure to every parcel within Winlock and the surrounding rural areas through ToledoTel.
This was essentially a formality, as in October of 2022 Lewis County Commissioners and ToledoTel held a kick-off meeting for their public-private partnership to expand high-speed internet services in and around Winlock.
The grant will pay the way for internet service to eventually be extended to over 2,300 homes and businesses in Winlock. The total project will consist of 134 miles of mainline construction. ToledoTel will now begin engineering and design of the project, plus provide an additional $2.35 million in matching funds toward the project.
The Lewis County Commissioners’ resolution accepting the grant stated, “The broadband services from this project will be a game-changing boost to the Winlock area’s growth, economic development and quality of life.”
Lewis County Manager Erik Martin said this is a great opportunity for South Lewis County.
“There’s the convenience, there’s business purposes; all those are really vital and becoming more and more a part of everyday life, and we want to provide those services to everyone in Lewis County that we can,” Martin said. “This project is really the beginning, in terms of getting service out to folks, and we want to focus on getting broadband out to all rural areas and all residents of Lewis County.”
At the completion of the project, which is expected to run through 2026, the county will own the broadband infrastructure and ToledoTel will use the fiber optic lines to assist in connecting businesses and homeowners to internet service.
“Broadband infrastructure and access to high-speed internet service is critical to residents, businesses, schools, hospitals and public safety in Lewis County,” said Lewis County Commissioner Dr. Lindsey Pollock. “This is a big step in addressing the areas that are unserved or underserved, bringing us one step closer to closing the digital divide.”
The Washington State Broadband Office earlier announced funding for 13 construction projects that will deliver reliable, high-speed internet access in 14 communities when completed. The $145 million in Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration grants move Washington another step closer to its ambitious goal of connecting all residents of the state to broadband infrastructure by 2028.
“Infrastructure is the foundation for digital equity. From education and healthcare to e-commerce and community services, the daily essentials needed for people and our economy to thrive are increasingly found online,” said Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown “Washington state’s goal is to ensure all of our residents have access to affordable high-speed internet, as well as the devices, skills and confidence needed to connect with critical resources.”
Broadband Infrastructure Acceleration Grants conditionally awarded, pending final contract execution, are as follows:
• Lewis County — $23.5 million, estimated project completion by Dec. 31, 2026
• Clallam County — $20.27 million, estimated project completion by Dec. 31, 2023
• Spokane Tribe of Indians — $16.8 million, estimated project completion by Dec. 31, 2024
• Snohomish County — $16.7 million, estimated project completion by Jan. 31, 2024
• Washington independent Telecommunications Association — $14.86 million for two sub-projects serving Mason and Island Counties, estimated project completion by Dec. 31, 2024
• King County — $11.8 million, estimated project completion by Jan. 31, 2023
• Adams County — $10.3 million, estimated project completion by Dec. 1, 2023
• Public Utility District #1 of Jefferson County — $9.7 million, estimated north fiber project completion by Dec. 1, 2024
• Nisqually Indian Tribe — $6.77 million, estimated OAN Phase II project completion by Dec. 31, 2023
• Lincoln County — $5.2 million, estimated Connecting Lincoln County project completion by Dec. 31, 2023
• Confederated Tribes of the Colville — $4.09 million, estimated broadband acceleration project completion by Dec. 31, 2024
• Port of Bellingham — $4 million, estimated Whatcom County expansion project completion by Dec. 31, 2024
• Port of Whitman County — $1.06 million, estimated project completion by Dec. 1, 2023
Applications for a second round of grants to award an additional $120 million will open later this spring. Input from stakeholders is instrumental in shaping how the office distributes funds, according to Ann Campbell, manager of infrastructure programs for the Washington State Broadband Office, noting that local community broadband organizing groups are a focal point for this effort.
Campbell said for this funding round the office prioritized projects that would deploy service in unserved areas, or areas lacking access to reliable (wireline connection) service at speeds of at least 25 megabits per second (mbps) download and 3 mbps upload (25/3).
The selected projects will offer speeds of 1 gigabit per second symmetrical service unless otherwise precluded by topography and geography.