Ellensburg’s fiber-optic Institutional Network (I-Net) already saves public dollars. Soon the town will also create opportunities for local businesses to obtain better connectivity via the publicly owned infrastructure through a new pilot program.
Time To Go Public
Three years ago, Ellensburg, Washington, chose to sever ties with Charter Communications when the national Internet Service Provider (ISP) decided it would charge $10,300 per month for municipal connectivity it had previously supplied in exchange for access to the public rights-of-way.
The community already owned and operated municipal electric and natural gas utilities, so a foray into managing an I-Net was a sensible task. After considering the math, they quickly realized deployment would pay for itself in about eight years when compared to the exorbitant rates from Charter. They also didn't know if Charter would raise rates again in the future or if there may be other issues with control of a network they depended on for municipal communications.
Onward And Upward
Ellensburg has been independent of Charter since 2014 and now they are taking the next logical step - offering services to local businesses. There is excess capacity on the existing fiber network that Energy Services would like to lease out in order to generate revenue and learn more about providing services to the public.
At a recent City Council meeting, Energy Services Director Larry Dunbar discussed the proposed pilot project. “A pilot project is the right thing to do if council wants to proceed because we really just don’t know,” Dunbar said. “We haven’t done this before.”
The city will receive a 2017 Distressed County Sales and Use Tax Infrastructure Improvement Program grant. The funds, focused on rural areas, are to be used for improving infrastructure projects; Ellensburg will receive approximately $169,000. Thirty-four connections to local businesses will cost $37,800 and will produce an estimated $16,300 in annual revenue.
In addition to using the grant funds to expand the fiber-optic network, Ellensburg plans to establish a fixed wireless network.