Public entities in Skagit County, Washington, are joining forces to improve connectivity in rural areas while developing infrastructure to connect the entire county. Earlier this month the Port of Skagit and the Skagit Public Utility District (PUD) entered into an agreement to form an entity to develop an open access network in keeping with the county’s strategic fiber plan.
In March 2017, the county, Port of Skagit, and the Economic Development Alliance of Skagit County developed the Skagit County Community Fiber Optic Network Strategic Plan. Within the county, the cities of Mount Vernon and Burlington own fiber networks; Anacortes is in the process of developing a municipal network. Private companies also have infrastructure within the county. These local communities in Skagit County are independently moving forward by improving their connectivity, but rural areas and smaller towns don’t have the connectivity needed for economic development or the resources to develop their own publicly owned networks.
From the Fiber Optic Plan:
The primary goal is to guide development of a countywide, carrier grade, open access fiber optic network that will deliver affordable high speed Internet access to the citizens of Skagit County for the purposes of economic development, education, public health and safety, and transportation. It is our goal to deliver carrier grade fiber optic infrastructure from Anacortes to Concrete.
To carry out the mission of the Plan, the Port and the PUD will work together to oversee the development of additional fiber running from Anacortes, on the far west of the county, to Concrete located near the middle of the county. Along the route, the network will integrate connections in the communities of Mount Vernon, La Conner, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, and Hamilton. They hope to also expand connections to smaller rural communities along the route.
Learn more by reading the plan.
In accordance with their agreement, the Port and the PUD have formed SkagitNet, which will handle the fiber optic network construction. The next step will be developing an operating plan to determine the roles each will play in SkagitNet. The Port will have the responsibility to ensure that the Fiber Optic Plan is implemented.
The Port is in the midst of building two segments already: between Anacortes and Mount Vernon and another segment between Anacortes and La Connor. Design for the next segment is underway. The Port has also entered into interlocal agreements with Burlington and Mount Vernon that will allow the new infrastructure to connect to those cities’ publicly owned fiber optic networks.
The public-public partnership was borne out of the needs of the two partners as well as the region’s community. According to PUD Commission President Robbie Robertson, both the Port and the PUD have been looking to improve their infrastructures for years.
“The port recognized they needed to improve their overall system, as did we,” Robertson said. “It was decided the two primary entities that were best qualified to go through this process of laying out the backbone was the port and PUD.”
SkagitNet is the first company formed between a port and a public utility district in Washington for the purpose of completing a community project, he said.