Whidbey Telecom looking for fiber optic grant

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Whidbey Telecom is developing a strategy to bring fiber optic infrastructure and gigabit-powered internet service to Point Roberts, but they need help from the community in making the case for grant funding to fast-track the project.

“We have big plans for Point Roberts,” said chief operating officer Donna Hilty. “We’re investing in an ambitious project to replace all of our network with fiber.”

The project started in fall 2018 installing a gigabit-capable fiber optic network to serve the business core along Gulf Road and Tyee Drive and essential community services like the fire station, the community center and the new library. “The service is rock solid and it is fast,” said marketing director Martha Ford.

Expanding the service to the rest of Point Roberts is part of Whidbey Telecom’s long-range planning, but could be expedited if they are able to access grant funding through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA Broadband ReConnect program furnishes grants and loans to improve connectivity in rural or isolated areas.

Hilty said the company was applying for funds in 2020. “If we are able to land the grant it will be a shot in the arm that would allow us to move forward more quickly,” she said. With grant funding, she said, they could begin construction in 2021 with a completion date in 2025.

Data about what kind of broadband service Point Roberts users are currently receiving is critical supporting documentation for the grant process. An online survey conducted by the Washington State Department of Commerce is currently gathering that data, and Hilty encourages customers to take it. “There are a lot of places where we are delivering service as fast as we can. They want to see that information from individual users.”

The survey is available at bit.ly/3bsXhrV. The first step is to take an online test of your internet speed and then fill out a survey identifying your location and service provider. The survey results are available on the website.

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