2022 Updates: NTIA Funding Approved!

 03/06/2022 -  WCCBP -  ~2 Minutes

It’s been almost 6 years since the organizers of our group and I first met to discuss connectivity in Brinnon. None of us knew at the time how much hard work it would take to get (and stay) connected. We’re delighted to share our biggest news so far:

The NTIA approved grants to bring broadband to Brinnon!

The $30MM grant, co-sponsored by the WA State Broadband Office   , included two Jefferson County projects.

Service is expected be online in 2023 or 2024, and these grants are designed to pay for the line to your door. We expect speeds up to a gigabit (1000 down / 1000 up). These speeds are so fast, your home WiFi probably can’t keep up!

We’re very excited about the news, but the journey isn’t over. Inflation and supply chain problems mean we’ll probably need more grant money than planned and could delay the launch dates. That said, once fiber shows up in our area, it’s good for everyone!

We will share more in a future update when you can pre-register for service.

Project Areas

Note: We are still working with Jefferson PUD on fiber access at the Duckabush station. They previously announced this in 2021 at our town hall meeting, but delayed/cancelled the project without explanation. We’ll share more about this step in a future update.

2021 Town Hall Meeting Recap

 08/21/2021 -  WCCBP -  ~7 Minutes

Brinnon Broadband Town Hall Recap

This past Wednesday, we hosted a town hall here in Brinnon. We were honored to be joined by several guests, including:

The headline story is that Mason PUD1 and Hood Canal Communications are partnering to build a new fiber network which will reach most residents between Hama Hama Oyster Co and Mount Walker. Jefferson PUD also shared their previously announced projects in Quilcene and Discovery Bay to serve folks north of Mt Walker.

Russ shared that the state is prioritizing areas like Jefferson County due to the lack of service. They have already approved major funding for the Hood Canal extension from Hama Hama Oyster Company to Brinnon. Mason County has also approved county funding south of the county line, meeting the requirements for local matching funds.

With continued community involvement, we have a real chance for fast, affordable, and reliable broadband for years to come.

Notes From the Meeting

Introduction (by us)

  • Who are we?
    • We’re a group of neighbors who live in Jefferson and Mason Counties dedicated to improving Internet access in our community.
    • Our goal is to connect unserved areas within our area
    • Service must be affordable, reliable, and fast enough for a family to use
    • No options exist today which can meet all three goals
  • Why is service so bad?
    • We were skipped when the major statewide broadband network was built in the 2000’s (NoaNET)
    • There is no fiber connectivity nearby. The closest connections are Quilcene and Hama Hama Oyster Company.
    • Without fiber nearby, all providers must beam service from far away (Kitsap or northern Jefferson County). Long distances mean slower and less reliable service.
    • As family needs and technology requirements change, speeds need to increase. None of the current services here can meet this growth.
    • No current service is reliable, affordable, or is too slow to be considered broadband.
      • Services do not meet advertised speeds in the evenings, when most people use them.
      • No services meet the new Washington State target of 100 / 20 (download / upload), or the future goal of even faster speeds. This will be needed over the next 5-10 years.
    • 5G will not improve cellular dead zones, and is not fast enough for household Internet usage in rural areas.
    • Starlink may be a good choice for some who have a large plot, but trees, buildings, and mountains will block service for many. Startup costs are also expensive (>$500.)
  • We need to speak up to ensure we aren’t skipped with the latest federal funding.

Guest Presentations

  • Washington State Broadband Office
    • Our area is a major focus, as many new technologies 5G won’t serve rural areas
    • Small counties (<50k residents) are a priority, Jefferson County qualifies.
    • Working with MPUD1 and JPUD to prioritize grants
    • Federal funding is focused on hard to reach areas, and we expect enough funding to reach almost everyone, even if it was too expensive under previous rules (NOTE: This is really great news for rural areas like ours!)
  • Jefferson PUD
    • Building two networks in Quilcene and Discovery Bay
    • Depends on grant approvals from state and federal government
    • Fiber to the home services start with 100/100 service, with gigabit speeds (1000 megabits) or faster available
    • Jefferson PUD, the BPA, and Mason PUD1 will be tapping into fiber at the Duckabush station in October. This is a major step to help all projects in the area.
    • More details on the Jefferson PUD Broadband Project website  
  • Mason PUD1 and Hood Canal Communications
    • MPUD1 is partnering with HCC to build a new fiber-to-the-home network
    • Fiber to the home, capable of gigabit speeds (1000 megabits) or faster
    • Mason County has funded extension from Hama Hama Oyster to Mike’s Beach Resort (three miles south of the county line)
    • State Broadband Office has approved funding for Brinnon area, but more funding is needed
    • Waiting on final federal grant approval

Questions and Answers

  • When will these networks be ready? Why can’t they be done sooner?
    • Many utility poles need to be replaced before they can add new fiber. This takes time and extra money.
    • No firm timelines yet, but if funding is approved, construction may start in 2022
    • Even if funding is not approved in the first wave, more funding is coming later in 2021-2022
  • What will the costs of service be?
    • Generally much less expensive than wireless/cell/satellite
    • Service should be 2-25x faster, won’t slow down at night, and cost you less than you pay now (sometimes less than half)
    • HCC provided flyer with costs (gigabit $85/month)
    • See slide deck for North Olympic Datacenter pricing (fiber costs are for Port Townsend residents)
  • Will people with long driveways get service?
    • JPUD grants apply to everyone, regardless of long driveways, although some extreme situations may require discussion with homeowners
    • MPUD1/HCC may require home owners to pay for installation, depending on driveway length and whether your utilities are underground
    • Grant funding will determine how much (if any) owners must pay to connect. Some grants provide more coverage than others.
  • What happens if your power is underground?
    • Digging is ~3x more expensive
    • MPUD1/HCC grants cover everyone in service areas, but digging takes more time, and the homeowner may need to pay for some installation costs
    • MPUD1 is working to reduce these costs by installing service when already working on other projects (a “dig once” approach)
  • Will the Black Point resort build service or help with this project?
    • These projects do not depend on the resort
  • Do you need a phone line to get the new service?
    • No. Fiber is a brand new network, so you do not need to have any existing service today.
  • What can we do to help?

Press Intro

The communities west of the Hood Canal are in an internet desert. Most residents have either no way to reliably or affordably access the internet. Where some service exists, it’s limited and does not meet the needs of most families. Five years ago, a group of neighbors formed the West Canal Community Broadband Group. “Bring us broadband” is the cry.

The meeting at the Brinnon Community Center greeted over forty people on a warm summer night and competed with a salmon recovery meeting at the same time down the road. Salmon and broadband are important issues for the folks in this rural part of Mason and Jefferson counties.

It was not unexpected, but ironic that when State Broadband Office director Russ Elliot tried to a Zoom call into the group’s Wednesday evening “summit” there was not enough bandwidth to carry the connection. He had to use a 20th century conference telephone call instead.

Representatives from Mason PUD 1, Jefferson PUD, The State Broadband Office and Hood Canal Communications updated the attendees about state and federal funding and ongoing and upcoming programs from deployment of fiber optic cable to internet connectivity.

2021 West Canal Broadband Town Hall

 08/02/2021 -  WCCBP -  ~1 Minute

The West Canal Community Broadband project invites you to attend a town hall meeting on Wednesday, August 18th, 2021 at 5:30pm at the Brinnon Community Center.

This meeting will cover the state of broadband in 2021 along the western Hood Canal, as well as provide important updates from the state and both of our local PUDs (Jefferson and Mason PUD1).

If you don’t receive our newsletter, there is a lot of federal and state funding focused on helping connect smaller communities like ours. Community suppport and involvement is critical to getting funded. Please share the word with your neighbors, and join us in person for more information.

Our agenda will cover:

  1. What our group is focused on
  2. Where is service planned
  3. What you can do to get service
  4. Answer questions

2021 Town Hall Meeting + Updates

 07/14/2021 -  WCCBP -  ~2 Minutes

Neighbors:

This week we have a few updates. First, we’re planning a town hall Wednesday August 18th at 5:30PM at the Brinnon Community Center   . We’re finalizing our speaker list now, but plan to share updates about all of the various projects active in our area and answer questions you have about it.

Second, we met with Mason PUD1 and Hood Canal Communications   last week, and have some good news for people in Mason County. For those of us in Jefferson County, the news isn’t as good yet. Read on for more details by county.

Mason County

Mason PUD1 and Hood Canal Communications are partnering to build fiber north from Hama Hama Oyster Co. The first step is north to Mike’s Beach Resort. The second step is an extension to the county line. The plan is to use grant money from the state to offset some of the cost. Both Mason PUD1 and HCC need community support to win the grants, including possible use of Mason County funds to make up the gap.

Please Email your Mason County commissioner   , attend the Mason County Commissioners meeting   on July 20th 2021, or Email Kristin at Mason PUD1 with your letter of support.

Jefferson County

For folks near Brinnon who get their power from Mason PUD1 but live in Jefferson County, we have a different challenge. We need Jefferson PUD to apply for grants and develop a plan to reach us, just like Mason PUD1 has done with HCC’s help. Without Jefferson PUD’s help, service could stop at the county line.

Please keep Emailing Dan Toepper (our Jefferson PUD commissioner) and/or Greg Brotherton (our Jefferson County commissioner). Ask them to help Jefferson PUD to create a plan for Brinnon, apply for grants, and find a way to reach south county. Without their support, Jefferson PUD will stay focused on north county and we’ll be forgotten.

We hope you’re enjoying the beautiful weather!

-Robert, Phil, and Jim