Clallam County, Washington, Connects Anchor Institutions

Washington's Olympic Peninsula is one step closer to being laced in a new fiber-optic network. The first link in the new Peninsula-wide broadband project is between Blyn and Sequim and will serve the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe from its new Blyn library to a local medical clinic located in Jamestown. Also benefiting from the new expansion will be the Sequim Library.  Thirty people, including state and federal elected officials, a representative from the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe, NoaNet, and local public safety professionals, recently gathered together at the Sequim Library to celebrate the new expansion, as reported by Jeff Chew in the Peninsula Daily News.

Clallum County PUD's network is part of NoaNet, an open access wholesale only network, and now has 24 miles of fiber-optic cables between Port Angeles and Sequim. From Chew's artcle:

“High-speed broadband is the most exciting thing that has happened in law enforcement in my career,” Port Angeles Police Chief Terry Gallagher told about 30 at the Sequim Library.

Gallagher said broadband Internet will allow officers to work faster and more efficiently, enabling them to multitask in their patrol cars, such as checking a motorist's identification while checking on a city webcam and communicating all at once.

The construction of the project is overseen by NoaNet. The network is planned to run from Brinnon to Port Ludlow and  Port Townsend and then across the Olympic Peninsula to Neah Bay to Forks. This portion of the project, from Blyn to Sequim, was chosen first  because it was part of the first round of funding and because it is less complex than other legs of the network.

Thirty-six counties, 170 communities, and over 2,000 anchor institutions (schools, libraries, public safety facilities, etc.) will benefit with better connectivity, funded with approximately $140 million ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) stimulus dollars and $44 million from local communities that are part of nonprofit wholesale broadband provider NoaNet. The open access provider has 12 public utility districts as members and has provided broadband service since 2000.

Clallam PUD is also thinking about the future of the network and the possibility of smart grid technology building on the fiber-optic network. As we have found in Chattanooga, an entire community benefits from smart grid technologies when power outages are shortened and reduced. In addition to improved power service, the system will increase connectivity in the public libraries.

“The library would not be the library” without broadband and a robust Internet, said Paula Barnes, North Olympic Library System director.

Her library system has 76 public computers, and “people are on those computers from the time we open until we close” looking for jobs or doing homework, she said.

Under present law, neither NoaNet nor Clallam PUD can offer direct retail services to businesses or residents. We previously wrote about legislation that would allow PUDs to decide for themselves what business model is most appropriate in their efforts to connect the many in rural Washington who have been left behind by the private cable and DSL companies. Unfortunately, that bill was defeated in committee by the cable and DSL lobbyists.