In January, PointNet LLC partnered with the Public Utilities District #1 (PUD) to apply for a Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) grant to provide high-speed internet access to all underserved and unserved customers in Point Roberts. The areas chosen would avoid any conflict with private providers such as Whidbey Telecom. The project has a $3.5 million budget and would cover at least 1,200 homes in designated areas. The company is led by president Bob Hillman and will offer a mix of service levels utilizing fiber optic and cables. They will be utilizing infrastructure originally constructed by Delta Cablevision which formerly offered cable television wired directly to homes throughout the Point.
Originally, WSBO said the successful applicants would be announced on February 28. The grant process, however, allowed for any party to file a challenge to grant applications. Whidbey Telecom filed a challenge to the PUD/PointNet application claiming that it currently provides high speed service and have begun construction in the area that PUD and PointNet’s grant application included. However, the WSBO ruled the objection invalid and dismissed it.
A number of other WSBO grant applicants in the state faced objections from Comcast, a large national internet provider and cable company. Consequently, the WSBO is currently sorting through the objections and have postponed the announcement of successful applicants until April.
Whidbey Telecom has served Point Roberts for over 25 years. Almost two years ago they installed fiber optic cables for the commercial corridor, including the library and community center on Gulf Road. “Whidbey Telecom is investing in Point Roberts because grants did not cover the entire commercial area, including a lot of the mainline, the backbone of the fiber,” said Martha Ford, director of marketing for Whidbey.
In December 2021, Whidbey was awarded a $1 million USDA Community Connect grant to bring broadband to underserved residents and businesses along the south and western edges of Point Roberts. Last summer, they began installation of underground fiber optic lines to homes near the marina on Edwards and Marine Drive. They are currently working their way westward on Marine Drive and are contacting customers as they approach their homes to offer them service. The company will continue working throughout the summer and plan to finish their multi-phase project in the next three years.
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