PUD 3 to Receive Funding for Fiberhood Program

Six Mason County Communities with sub-par access to high speed internet will see a major upgrade thanks to a financial boost from the Washington State Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB).

Terri Oberg, PUD 3’s telecommunications services coordinator, shows map of eligible Fiberhood communities.

The CERB Board approved an application from Mason PUD 3 to bolster funding for Fiberhood programs for Chapman Road on Harstine Island, Fish Hatchery near Matlock, Island View in Grapeview, Lake Christine on the Tahuya Peninsula, Satsop Maple Glen, the Schafer Park area, and Tahuya River Valley. Over 500 homes and businesses are in these specific Fiberhood communities.

“This is a historic moment for Public Utility Districts in Washington State,” said Justin Holzgrove, PUD 3 telecommunications and community relations manager. “I’m pleased that the CERB board recognizes the role that PUDs can play in extending broadband services to rural residents and businesses. The board seized this opportunity by offering a grant and low interest loan proposal to our PUD. We’ll be working closely on this project with our internet service provider partners who use our wholesale, open access network to resell broadband services to end users.”

The approved funding package from CERB proposes a $408,325 low interest loan and a $408,324 grant. The local match is $150,000. Cost recovery for the project comes through a monthly “construction adder fee” paid back over 12 years by those who receive service in these areas. As a public utility, it is the PUD’s intent to recover costs, not create a profit.

Mason PUD 3’s wholesale fiber optic network is a nondiscriminatory, open-access, net neutral service. PUD 3’s partners, internet service providers, sell gigabit speed internet, HDTV, special digital circuits, and phone services. The network provides for improved educational opportunities, tele-health services, economic development, and increased property values.

“Rural broadband infrastructure investments are a fundamental piece of community growth,” said CERB Chair Randy Hayden. “The New Rural Broadband Program funding is vital in strengthening the economy of these counties by opening up new opportunities for citizens, businesses, education, health care, and the local governments.”

“Virtually every job and economic opportunity today require access to broadband services,” said Brian Bonlender, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce. “Where someone lives should not be a determining factor in pursuing educational goals, entrepreneurial dreams or quality health care. These funds announced today will help meet the needs and strength rural and tribal communities throughout our state.”

Projects for Jefferson PUD, the city of Goldendale, the Port of Skagit County, the town of Darrington, and the Port of Whitman County will also benefit from the funds awarded through Washington’s new rural broadband program.

The release of CERB funds is contingent upon each applicant completing specific pre-contract requirements, such as finalizing other funding sources and obtaining necessary permits.