Whatcom PUD Broadband Feasibility Study

Whatcom PUD recently contracted with Petrichor Broadband LLC to analyze the need and cost of building infrastructure to bring broadband to the southern and western portions of Whatcom County and the results are in.

  • The study explores the most effective ways a public agency in Whatcom County, like the PUD, could position itself to apply for the many grant and loan opportunities that have become available during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The study will analyze two models for public, open-access systems for delivering services; and
  • It will explore the public-private partnerships that leverage investments to bring broadband services to the people of Whatcom County.

Click on the following link to download or view the Whatcom PUD Broadband Feasibility Study :  https://www.pudwhatcom.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Whatcom-PUD-Final-Broadband-Feasibility-Study.pdf

Broadband Feasibility Study ~ Questions and Answers

Question 1:  “Whatcom PUD Project Area” is the only segment named. The “Number of Strands” and “Run Length in miles” columns are blank. The number of subscribers (1010) is inconsistent with Noanet’s number (808).
Answer:  The “Whatcom PUD Project Area” includes all segments. The $20.00 per month per customer is the charge to the retail service provider to use the system – not number of strands or length in miles. Therefore, those columns are blank. The number of subscribers in Table 4 simply illustrates the method used to arrive at Gross Annual Revenue for any given number of subscriber count. The two firms’ revenue values come from a 3-year acquisition period to obtain 40% for the market. See Proforma Budget Summaries (pg 28 and 32).

Question No. 2  In Attachment I Construction Estimate, the number of poles per segment area is less than the supposed sum of its parts. In Attachment F Revenue Model Internal Operations, the grand total number of customers is exactly one, a business in year three.
Answer:  The modeling assumes there is a pole every 225ft. For example, “West Project Area” assumes 227,000 ft of aerial construction. Therefore, the 1,009 poles accurately reflect pole spacing of roughly 225ft. Attachment F should represent 0 not 1.

Question No. 3:  The formulas are not presented.
Answer:  Each of the models use the most up to date financial modeling done by professionals who have experience building, maintaining, and operating successful publicly-owned broadband networks. The formulas are proprietary to the respective firm.

Question No. 4:  The Port’s deployments need to be tracked with the most modern, stable, and well-supported GIS software we can afford.
Answer:  The PUD maintains a robust GIS platform for broadband planning in Whatcom County.  See the Whatcom County Broadband Planning Tool available here: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/eecb09325ae5461a83e6587f88bf7340

The GIS Mapping Tools area of the report include mapping of current and future Port/PUD projects, how we measure Whatcom’s digital equity and inclusion and much more.

Question No. 5:  The report favors Model 2, Dark Fiber, as lower risk with moderately higher expected revenues to PUD, yet on p. 34 states, “Risks associated with [both of] these models are minimal.”
Answer:  This portion of the study is in reference to Model #2 and the dark or lit model/structure of an IRU and not a comparison to model #1 retail broadband.

Question No. 6:  Model 2, p. 34 states, “Termination of fiber leases in other areas have been rare and with a rare exception, a new lease is signed by a competing provider before the cancellation is received.” What were the details about that “rare exception”?
Answer:  There are a few reasons an Internet Service Provider operating on a publicly-owned open access dark fiber network may terminate their lease agreement with the public entity. For example, the end user customer may move or perhaps they received marketing collateral from a competing company and wish to make a change in providers.

Question No. 8:  Is there any relationship to the previously mentioned caution on p. 21?
Answer: The reference to the RDOF areas is not related. As such, the termination of a fiber lease is operational in nature – meaning the public entity already has a network built out and is serving customers. The RDOF reference is referring to Federal policy. The study points out that public entities are blocked from receiving federal or state grant dollars to build any infrastructure or network in those already funded RDOF areas. 

Question No. 9:  Will McGee Road be included in the Port/PUD grant application?

Answer:  The Port intends to apply for grant funding that covers a portion of McGee Road. See below screenshot of proposed grant boundary area.

Partnering with the Port ~ Broadband

The Port of Bellingham and the Public Utility District (PUD) both have the authority to develop broadband networks and provide broadband services. 

Under an Interlocal Agreement, the agencies have formed a partnership to support the extension of broadband infrastructure to unserved and underserved areas in Whatcom County. The Port and PUD work collaboratively through a Broadband Steering Committee on policy, strategies, and funding opportunities.

Click on the link below for the Port of Bellingham’s Broadband Program Webpage:


Broadband Planning Report

Learn more about the mapping tools, data and sources, and targeted funding used compile information on Broadband Planning in Whatcom County.  This website/report highlights the methodology by which the PUD measures address level broadband availability and adoption data for Whatcom County, Washington.  by clicking on the link:

Whatcom County Broadband Planning