Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation are working together in central Washington to bring last mile broadband connectivity to the region. The partners have created the Broadband Action Team (BAT) and are working step by step to develop fast, affordable, reliable Internet access for about 42,000 people in the area. They recently released a Request for Proposals (RFP) as they search for a firm to help develop a County and Tribal Broadband Strategic Plan. Proposals are due November 26th, 2019.
In the Face of Difficulties
Okanogan County and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have contended with significant challenges. According to the RFP:
Much of Okanogan County, including the Colville Reservation within Okanogan County, is plagued with high unemployment, excessive poverty, and an absence of quality of life amenities that have proven to be undesirable to most residents and insurmountable barriers to 21st century economic and community development. Okanogan County and the Colville Confederated Tribes are historically and economically a distressed area. Historically, the surrounding areas within Okanogan County have been dependent on a resource-based economy. Community and economic resources have decreased dramatically as a substantial as the Omak Mill, closed. Many individuals have struggled to find work elsewhere and have either had to move, find government work, or start their own business.
Like many other communities that have decided it’s time to diversify their economy, leaders have determined that improving connectivity is necessary for economic development. Other livability issues, such as public safety, educational opportunities, and distance learning will improve in the region with the Internet access that people now lack.
Both parties also believe that this project will help strengthen their ability to jointly collect data regarding other infrastructure needs in the area. The county and the tribe want to pursue planning for other projects and work together.
Back in September 2019, we reported on earlier steps by the county and the tribe along with the Methow Valley to obtain planning proposals. They had released an RFP after receiving grants from the state’s Department of Commerce’s Community Revitalization Board. Okanogan County provided a match that allowed them to pursue the grant.
The Okanogan Public Utility District (PUD) has developed a 150-mile fiber optic network that runs through the county to provide wholesale service to Internet access companies, some that offer Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) and others that offer fixed wireless, to businesses and residents. Tribal communities and other very rural areas, however, haven't received the same last mile investment from the ISPs that extend the last mile to subscribers.
The Consultant They Choose
The tribe and the county have included in the RFP a list of some of the expectations they have for the firm they hire, including:
- Stakeholder identification, formation and engagement.
- Identify the Problems
- Set Preliminary Goals and Establish Key Performance Indicators
- Inventory Data and Conditions
- Analyze Data and Conditions
- Identify Alternatives and Deployment Solutions
- Select Alternatives or a Combination of Alternatives
- Evaluate the Implementation of Alternatives and offer implementation strategies
Proposals are due on November 26, 2019. Questions should be directed to Roni Holder-Diefenbach, Executive Director of the Economic Alliance: rholderdiefenbach(at)economic-alliance.com