The Port, in partnership with Whatcom County, Whatcom County Public Utility District (PUD), Washington State and PogoZone is excited to announce the extension of high-speed, affordable broadband to 476 unserved homes and businesses near East Nooksack in rural Whatcom County. A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held August 16th from 11-12:30 pm at 3669 Sorenson Road in Everson to celebrate the delivery of this essential infrastructure.
“High-speed internet is critical for business, public safety, education, healthcare, quality of life and much more” said Port Commission President Michael Shepard. “Thousands of homes and businesses in Whatcom County remain unserved due to the high cost and logistical challenges of extending fiber to rural areas with a limited customer base. The East Nooksack project offers a blueprint for how innovative public/private partnerships supported by local, state and federal grants can overcome the digital divide and accelerate the delivery of open-access broadband networks to all members of our community.”
The East Nooksack venture was made possible through the successful collaboration with PogoZone, a leading provider of high-speed internet access in Whatcom and Skagit County. PogoZone will provide lit service over the network in addition to operate and maintain the new fiber network. The network is open access meaning any provider in good standing can compete and provide services to customers. The network will remain open access for the life of the network.
“Adding hundreds of miles of new fiber to provide high-speed internet access for thousands of unserved homes and businesses in rural areas of Whatcom County is challenging and expensive” said Port Executive Director Rob Fix. “The public/private partnership model we developed offers the fastest and most affordable path towards universal coverage by using limited public funds to extend fiber and harnessing the power of the private market to operate and maintain these networks.”
The Port has the authority to build broadband infrastructure and in partnership with the PUD and County have secured over $10 million in grants in recent years for, planning and construction of high-speed internet access throughout rural Whatcom county. The East Nooksack Broadband Project was made possible with funding from Washington State Community Revitalization Board (CERB) with matching funds from Whatcom County’s Economic Development Investment Program and additional investment from the Port.
“Access to high-speed internet is one of Whatcom County’s biggest economic development and infrastructure challenges” said Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu. “Whatcom County is committed to working with local, state and federal partners to deliver equal access to affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to all members of our community.”
“The Port and PUD have a great team and will continue applying for state and federal broadband grants to help fund the continued expansion of this critical infrastructure” said Whatcom PUD Commissioner Christine Grant.
“CERB provides funding to local governments and federally recognized Indian tribes for public infrastructure supporting private business growth and expansion” said CERB Executive Director Janea Stark. “Connecting homes and businesses in Whatcom County to high speed broadband will create jobs and support businesses in local, regional and global markets.”
“The Port’s mission is to promote sustainable economic development” said Port Broadband Manager Gina Stark. “Fast, reliable and affordable broadband is essential for Whatcom County’s business and community members especially those in the rural areas, and the Port, PUD and Whatcom County are committed to meeting the long-term infrastructure and economic development needs of our community ensuring equitable access for all”
PogoZone is starting to test customers with speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second.
“PogoZone is focused on bridging the digital divide for businesses and residences in under-served areas of Whatcom County” said PogoZone Principal Tim Dyck. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Port of Bellingham on our shared mission of providing all areas of Whatcom County with high speed internet access.”
The ribbon-cutting event is set to take place at 11:00 am, and will include demonstrations of fiber infrastructure and a short presentation about the project and the progress being made in providing reliable, affordable high-speed internet to rural areas of Whatcom County.
For more information about the East Nooksack Broadband Project and other rural broadband projects being planned or underway, visit www.portofbellingham.com/broadband