Washington will invest six million into rural broadband through a combination of low-interest loans and grants.
The Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) approved $3.2 million in low-interest loans and $2.67 in grants for public infrastructure projects targeting rural broadband, business growth and job creation for the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe, Public Utility District No. 1 of Kitsap County, Mason County Public Utility District No. 3 and the ports of Bellingham and Sunnyside.
Four of the projects will be awarded funding from the Rural Broadband program, a state initiative started in 2017. That project has $4.6 million to invest in broadband efforts during the 2017-2019 state budget window.
The projects will cover a range of issues including expanding network connectivity, improving legacy infrastructure and adding last mile broadband service.
The Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe will get approximately half a million dollars in loans and grants for the Jamestown Cell Tower Project, which will build a carrier-ready tower that can support several 4G carriers and a wireless broadband ISP to provide services to residents, businesses, tribal government, administration and tribal businesses, as well as public safety entities. An estimated 214 connections in the project area will also have increased internet speed up to 25/5 Mbps, and increase the number of ISPs available to three.
Kitsap County will get approximately one million dollars in grants and loans to support its Last Mile Broadband Big Valley Project. When completed, the project will provide an estimated 158 connections with increased internet speed up to 1G/1G, and increase the number of ISPs available to six.
Mason County will get two million in loans and grants for the Rural Broadband Fiber Expansion Phase 2 Project. This project includes construction of open-access, ready-to-connect fiber networks to six unserved rural communities in Mason County, allowing access for improved education, economic development, public safety, and telehealth services.
Whatcom and Yakima County will also receive loan and grant money to improve their network infrastructures to support current and future services.
The release of CERB funds to these projects are contingent upon each applicant completing specific pre-contract requirements, such as finalizing other funding sources and obtaining necessary permits.
State officials say that supporting broadband expansion in this way will create new jobs and benefit economic growth throughout Washington’s rural communities. The investment builds on a broadband expansion plan outlined by the governor earlier this year.