By Jeff Chew
Peninsula Daily News
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Representatives of the Northwest Open Access Network, or NoaNet, told about 50 attending Monday's Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce meeting that crews were already on the ground in both counties.
“NoaNet's goal is having it completed as quickly as possible,” said Angela Bennink, NoaNet marketing director.
In East Jefferson County, Mike Henson, NoaNet's chief security officer, said work there would involve trenching and power poles now owned by Puget Sound Energy connecting Brinnon to Port Hadlock and Port Ludlow to Port Townsend.
NoaNet is a nonprofit mutual corporation formed in 2000 by 16 public utility districts, including those in Jefferson and Clallam counties.
Besides service to East Jefferson County, NoaNet is extending service in Port Angeles and will service the Jamestown S'Klallam, Lower Elwha and Makah tribes from Blyn to Neah Bay, the most northwesterly community on the Peninsula.
Bennink said NoaNet last week cleared a major hurdle, receiving state clearance after an environmental impact study that determined it would not cause any harm to the environment or historic or cultural sites by trenching.
NoaNet's work will lay or extend overhead a “backbone” cable so the Peninsula's existing Internet service providers can then extend services to businesses, homes, schools, hospitals and government hubs.
It was conceived to render advanced and high-capacity services to the underserved rural areas of the state such as Jefferson and Clallam counties.
Jefferson and Clallam counties more than a year ago were awarded a total of $6.5 million in economic stimulus grants that were given to rural communities nationwide.
The grants were backed by the Obama administration and announced by Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, former Washington governor.
Jefferson County received a $3.2 million grant to bring the county faster Internet connections after forming the Jefferson County Broadband Coalition headed by the county's economic development arm, Team Jefferson.
The coalition was made up of more than 20 government and business entities, including the county; Jefferson County Public Utility District; the city of Port Townsend; the Port of Port Townsend; Brinnon, Quilcene, Chimacum and Port Townsend school districts; the county and city libraries; emergency services; Fort Worden State Park, Jefferson Healthcare hospital; and the county courts.
The grants were funded by the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant, stimulus dollars to improve Internet technology in rural areas.
The coalition sought fiber and wireless infrastructure to reach that goal.
Jefferson County is one of 12 regional governments going through NoaNet, and the state Department of Information Services, to qualify for the economic stimulus grant dollars.
City of PA
NoaNet also announced Wednesday that it received an additional federal grant award of more than $3 million to extend open-access high-speed broadband service targeting public health, safety providers and low-income individuals in particular in the city of Port Angeles.
The benefits of this broadband initiative are far-reaching and include job creation, economic investment in rural areas and high-speed Internet access to Northwest Washington schools, libraries, emergency responders, hospitals, government agencies, businesses and low-income individuals, Bennink said.
“What we're providing is the ‘middle mile services,'” Bennink said, adding that Internet service providers such as OlympusNet in Port Townsend, Olypen in Sequim and CenturyLink would take service from there to consumers.
The so-called “last mile” would be provided by Internet service providers.
“It can be provided the first day after it's built,” Henson said.
Part of broader effort
The Peninsula was part of a broader effort involving $45 million in participant contributions and nearly $140 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act federal grants to construct more than 1,300 miles of new fiber-optic cable, delivering enhanced, affordable wholesale broadband service to 55 economically depressed communities encompassing 538,559 households and 103,230 businesses across 25 Washington counties.
NoaNet is now installing such infrastructure from Walla Walla to Neah Bay, Bellingham to far Eastern Washington.
Henson and Bennink said the network could bring new technology to the Peninsula.
Henson gave as an example the rural city of Quincy, which has a population of about 6,750 southeast of Wenatchee in Central Washington.
Today, it has eight data centers, a direct result of broadband improvements through NoaNet.
A data center is a facility used to house computer systems and associated components, such as telecommunications and data storage systems.
“Broadband is proving to be cost-saving” through “telemedicine,” which a Seattle doctor can use through a live video conference to examine and consult with a remotely located patient on the Peninsula, saving a long drive and a patient's time, Bennink said.
Another example Bennink gave was a firefighter having quick access online to the blueprints of a burning building to find safe access into the building for first responders.
With broadband, he said, uploads will be as fast as downloads, enhancing the use of video and other large data files sent online.
“It will change how people do things here,” Henson said.
“It's going to be fascinating to see what we do.”
The fiber loop NoaNet is creating will include “redundancy,” meaning if one part of it is down, another part will back it up in an emergency.
It will provide public and private access to a minimum of 100 megabytes per second or up to 1 gigabyte per second.
Jefferson County will be the first to receive connection and will include all the libraries, schools, community centers, fire and emergency management programs, Jefferson Healthcare hospital, WSU and the city of Port Townsend, the county and the Port of Port Townsend.
Once hubs are installed with broadband access, then services can be expanded to businesses and households.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.