PUD 3 Receives Federal Funding for Local Fiberhood

(L-R) Justin Holzgrove, Mason PUD 3 telecommunications & community relations manager; Lynn Eaton, PUD 3 assistant public information & government relations manager; Joel Myer, PUD 3 public information & government relations manager; Evan Smith, district representative for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, economic development, special projects; Katy Crabtree, district representative for U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today announced that Mason PUD 3 has been awarded a $2.4 million grant from its ReConnect Pilot Program for extension of high-speed, wholesale broadband to the “Three Fingers” area of Grapeview.

Including a local match from PUD 3, the $3.3 million project will deliver gigabit-speed fiber-optic service to 250 households and businesses in the community.

The project will build on the success of the PUD’s Fiberhood program and its public-private broadband partnership. When the PUD extends its wholesale-based fiber-optic network to the area, qualified providers will have the opportunity to sell internet, phone, video, and other services to end-users.

“This is the task of our generation, to ensure that all rural residents and future generations have the same access to affordable high-speed broadband as their urban and suburban counterparts,” said Kirk Pearson, (USDA) Rural Development Washington State Director. “The Broadband ReConnect Program is helping us satisfy our mandate to improve the quality of life of all rural residents by improving their access to education, health care, and economic opportunity enjoyed by other Americans.”

“PUD 3 is grateful for the support we received from the staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help with our application, and funding for the extension high-speed internet to citizens in the Three-Fingers area of Grapeview,” said Tom Farmer, Mason PUD 3 commission chair. “They have no access to broadband, and the prospect of getting it was very poor. This federal-local government partnership will make it a reality.”

“Over the past decade, PUD 3 staff received countless phone calls, emails, and messages from those in the Three-Fingers area who do not have access to high-speed broadband and no reliable cell coverage,” said Justin Holzgrove, PUD 3 telecommunications and community relations manager. “Cost and underground service challenges have been barriers for this area. Taking a solutions-oriented approach, we found that the ReConnect program will bridge the funding gap, making it economically feasible for PUD 3 to extend its fiber network to this community.”

“For over 80 years, Mason PUD 3 has been building infrastructure to stand the test of time, all for the benefit of our customers,” said Annette Creekpaum, Mason PUD 3 manager. “This grant would not be possible without the outstanding maintenance of our system by PUD 3 employees and award-winning financial management. I see this as recognition that our employees truly reflect our mission of always providing safe, reliable, economical service, 24/7.”

“Connecting rural communities to high-speed internet can be a vital tool in the effort to create more economic opportunities for more people in our region. I supported this grant because broadband can lead to new jobs and businesses, empower students by placing new information at their fingertips, and help rural communities get in on the economic growth we’re seeing that’s been largely concentrated in America’s cities,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, who provided a support letter as part of the application process. “Mason PUD 3 has been hard at work to expand high-speed broadband to our region, and it’s exciting to see them receive a grant through the Broadband ReConnect Program to get networks up to speed to better serve our kids, our businesses, and our everyday lives!”

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, telehealth services, economic development, and increased property values.

Mason PUD 3 is one of 42 agencies to receive USDA ReConnect Funding to date. PUD 3 is the only Washington state entity to have applied for grant funding in this round.