PUD Broadband Overview


Long before the FCC recognized broadband as a public utility, citizens and communities were finding it absolutely necessary to their well-being and future success to connect their communities with broadband internet access. Broadband telecommunications, increasingly, is how people communicate, conduct business and access government services. It is, also, paramount to a community’s economic viability.

Since 2014, Jefferson PUD has owned and currently shares operations of a high-speed open-access fiber optic broadband network in Jefferson County. The network was built in large part thanks to a federal grant and, to a lesser extent, our own operational needs as an electric utility. Almost all of the county’s schools, libraries, government offices, first responder buildings and major medical facilities have been connected to this broadband network via fiber optic lines and wireless devices. This has allowed these agencies to keep pace with the modern world; hospitals transmit data and imagery, schools stream content and instruction, first responders coordinate emergency response plans.

This is a community-owned network and due to citizens’ requests we are evaluating expanding this high-speed open-access broadband network to residences in Jefferson County. However, under Washington State law, PUD’s are only authorized to sell wholesale telecommunications services to re-sellers such as ISPs, cable companies and telephone companies and not “end users”. The PUDs can help build infrastructure to residential customers where ISPs can provide and bill you for broadband services. Jefferson PUD cannot be your internet service provider (ISP).


    • Broadband is the ability to transport multiple signals, frequencies and traffic types simultaneously. Think television signals, phone services, email and Internet all in the same line. Typically, it is measured in bits per second and is bi‐directional (the ability to receive and send information). Currently, the federal government considers broadband to now be 25 megabits per second download/3 megabits per second upload. Many Jefferson County residents now cannot get more than 1 Mbs download consistently, which severely limits video and telecommunications.

    • A. Optical fiber is a hair‐thin strand of glass, specially designed to trap and transmit light pulses. The fiber uses light instead of electricity to carry a signal. Fiber optic cable can carry high bandwidth signals over long distances without signal loss, and it can provide those signals simultaneously in both directions – upload and download. Copper media can also carry high bandwidth, but only for a few hundred yards – after which the signal begins to degrade and bandwidth narrows. Optical fiber has been used in communications networks for more than 35 years, mostly to carry a multitude of signals from city to city or country to country.

      Connecting homes directly to fiber optic cable enables enormous improvements in the bandwidth that can be provided to consumers, both now and for many more decades to come. Current fiber optic technology can provide two‐way transmission speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (1 Gigabit per second = 1,000 Megabits per second), with 10 ‐ 100 Gbps systems now on the market and even higher bandwidth fiber networks being developed. Further, while cable and DSL providers are struggling to squeeze small increments of higher bandwidth out of their technologies, ongoing improvements in fiber optic equipment are constantly increasing available bandwidth without having to change the fiber. That’s why fiber networks are said to be “future proof.”

    • A. Our network is based on Fiber Optic technology, but that is a fairly expensive technology to deploy. For some locations, further away from our fiber backbone, wireless connections might be the only viable option, at least initially. Wireless broadband relies on antennas sending and receiving data through the air. It’s challenging to deliver the same speeds as a direct fiber connection, but the technology is developing fast and already today broadband speeds can be delivered.

    • A. Open Access is the term used to describe a network where any Internet Service Provider (ISP) may provide service to the end‐user over that network. JPUD supports the open access model because it 1) eliminates the costs of duplicative infrastructure and 2) allows the customer to have a choice of ISPs. Competition among ISPs has been shown to improve quality of services and control costs for the end user.

    • A. A 1990’s state law restricts PUDs from selling full retail telecommunications services to county citizens, agencies and businesses. Although new laws, intervening court rulings and generations of soft and hardware advancement have eclipsed Washington’s last‐century law, Washington PUDs are only allowed to provide non‐retail services, including wholesale networks, community networks, and certain other telecommunications services.

    • Even though PUDs cannot provide retail telecommunications services to the home, residents of Jefferson County have requested JPUD to expand the high‐speed open access network to their neighborhoods. JPUD intends to engage in strategic planning for broadband infrastructure expansion in 2019.

    • A. Broadband access can be provided to residents over a variety of infrastructures.
      When the infrastructure used is fiber optic cable it is called Fiber to the home (FTTH). In this delivery model, Jefferson PUD extends its broadband network all the way to the home. Fiber to the home is the fastest growing method of providing vastly higher bandwidth to consumers and businesses, and thereby enabling more robust video, Internet and voice services. Fiber to the home networks are now available to nearly one‐fifth of North American households, with more than seven million of them connected and receiving Internet, voice and/or television service via FTTH.

    • A. Surveys have shown that FTTH subscribers pay approximately the same for their Internet, voice and video services as do customers of DSL and cable providers, and that FTTH subscribers actually pay less per megabit of bandwidth that they receive. In addition, surveys of broadband consumers conducted by Consumer Reports magazine and by the FTTH Council have shown that subscribers of FTTH services report considerably higher satisfaction rates than subscribers of other broadband services. A 2009 RVA, LLC Home Owner and Developer survey and research commissioned by the Fiber to the Home Council shows homes increased in value by as much as $5000, and not having high speed broadband significantly reduces the desirability of a property on the market.

Jefferson PUD and NoaNet

Jefferson PUD is a member of Northwest Open Access Network or NoaNet, a non-profit corporation consisting of a consortium of public utility districts that sell wholesale telecommunications services.  In the summer of 2013, a new broadband network was completed in East Jefferson County with America Recovery Act grant funding with the intention of providing faster, more affordable broadband technology to community anchor institutions such as government, education, medical and public safety services.  The ARRAnetwork will be owned by the PUD, but operated and maintained by NoaNet.

While the grant was intended to serve community-based services, other businesses and organizations will be able to connect and receive service through internet service providers (ISP) utilizing the new network. Neither NoaNet, nor the PUD however can provide service to an end user such as an at-home customer so you will need to contact an ISP and ask them what enhanced services they can provide you.