Port of Bellingham partners with the PUD on Rural Broadband

The Port is teaming up with Public Utility District (PUD) No. 1 of Whatcom County to develop a strategic plan for improving broadband coverage to under-served areas throughout the county.

“In Whatcom County, we have many rural communities who either do not have broadband access or have it but the speed is inadequate” said Port Director of Economic Development Don Goldberg. ”Like water, roads, and electricity, broadband is of fundamental importance to social and economic development. Increasing capacity is essential to the economic growth of Whatcom County. It will enable businesses in our mostly rural county to thrive and compete in an increasingly digital world“

Recognizing the Port and PUD have shared goals of community and economic growth, the two entities have entered into an Interlocal Agreement to develop a strategic plan for improving broadband connectivity throughout Whatcom County. The Port and PUD have committed $30,000 to help fund the plan, and secured a $50,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to complete the Rural Broadband Feasibility Study.

“The PUD sees this new partnership with the Port as a great opportunity for both agencies” said PUD General Manager Stephan Jilk. “Both the PUD and Port have county wide authority and common interests in developing infrastructure to provide solutions to our community’s basic needs. Working together on common goals provides a more effective and more efficient way to meet these goals.”

The Rural Broadband Feasibility Study will identify which areas in Whatcom County are unserved or underserved by broadband, identify the most feasible path to extend broadband infrastructure to these communities, and identify existing infrastructure and needed infrastructure to implement a countywide broadband system.

The study will include:
• Need/demand assessment for broadband services
• An identified pathway to rural communities
• Current assets and mapping
• Broadband business and operating models
• Codes, permits and policies needed to implement a broadband network
• Estimated construction costs

The Port and PUD anticipate completing the strategic plan in 2019 and then pursuing grant funding for construction to improve broadband infrastructure throughout the county.

For additional information:
Michael Hogan, Port Public Affairs Administrator 360.676.2500
Stephan Jilk, PUD General Manager 360.384.4288