Jefferson County PUD has been operating a fiber network since 2013. The PUD currently has approximately 50 miles of fiber built out across the county. Most of this fiber serves internal PUD needs, connecting facilities and monitoring equipment. Because PUDs are limited to providing wholesale and not direct access to its fiber network, few businesses and residents have access to PUD fiber.
The PUD has been exploring ways to connect more residents and businesses for many years. In 2018 the PUD began the first of a two-phase strategic plan for broadband expansion. In September of 2018, Jefferson County PUD was awarded a grant from the WA State Department of Commerce Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to fund a strategic plan for expanding broadband infrastructure in Jefferson County. Magellan Advisors, LLC, a broadband, smart city, information technology and security consulting contractor to public and private organizations, was chosen to lead the project. The PUD worked with Magellan and members of the community over the course of the 2019 calendar year to review access, demand, technologies, and opportunities for connecting customers. The planning process was completed in December of that year.
Using the plan provided by Magellan, the PUD will engage in a second round of broadband planning in 2020. Working with a new grant from the WA State Public Works Board, the PUD endeavored to create a detailed business plan for the development of broadband connections to homes and businesses. CCG Consulting was chosen to lead the project. Work on the business plan began in late 2020 and was completed in March of 2021. Link to the final study
In June of 2021 the PUD identified its first broadband expansion project. Federal funding is now being sought to pay for the project. Learn more on our Project Area page.
Most people know if they have internet…
Whether or not they have broadband can be harder to determine.
For a fixed, wired internet service to be considered “broadband” by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), it must have the ability to deliver downloads speed of 25 megabytes per second (mbps) and upload speeds of 3mbps. Wired broadband service can be delivered by fiber, coaxial cable, or even copper wire as long as it has the potential to meet prescribed speeds. Broadband can also technically be provided by wireless services, though the speeds are lower, with a minimum of 5 mbps down and 1 mbps up considered broadband.
Internet Service Providers (ISPs) currently self-report both their delivered speeds and coverage areas to the FCC. Using that self-reported data, the FCC concluded that at the end of 2016, 92.3% of Americans had access to broadband internet. However, according to a study by Microsoft, cited by the New York Times in a December 2018 article titled “Digital Divide is Wider Than We Think,” only half of Americans are using the internet at speeds approaching the broadband rate, and many areas in the US considered by the FCC as having broadband, especially rural areas, do not.
The problem, as stated in a post on Microsoft’s website titled “Better Broadband Data Can Lend a Voice to Rural Americans,” is that ISPs “are only required to report areas where they could hypothetically deliver broadband access, not just the areas where they actually do provide broadband access.” The New York Times article focuses on Microsoft’s work in Ferry County, WA. 100% of Ferry County is considered as having access to broadband by the FCC, while Microsoft estimates that only 2% of the population use it. The mayor of Republic, in Ferry County, is quoted saying “we don’t really have broadband coverage across the county.”
2019 Broadband Survey
Jefferson County does not have 100% access to broadband either. The FCC’s 2016 year end report says only 81% of Jefferson County residents have access to broadband. What Jefferson County residents actually have or use has not been fully surveyed, but will be soon. As part of a strategic planning process the PUD has undertaken to determine possibilities for expanding access to broadband infrastructure, the PUD is partnering with Team Jefferson EDC and others to survey households & businesses about how they connect to and use the internet.
This is not the same survey the PUD issued in 2017, which focused more on what types of service customers would be interested in. The goal of the 2019 survey is to inventory access to internet, speeds used, and activities our residents and business need the internet for. Data will be used to help guide decisions about locating future fiber, and will help support applications for federal and state broadband infrastructure grants.
NOTE: The survey was completed in July of 2019. Results here
Clallam and Jefferson Broadband Symposium
On March 18 & 19th, at the Jamestown S’klallam Red Cedar Room in Blyn, the North Olympic Development Council hosted a Broadband Symposium to discuss challenges and opportunities for connecting more of the NOP to reliable, affordable, high-speed internet. Jefferson County PUD helped to plan the event and presented on some of the panels. The event was free and open to the public.
Day 1 included a full day of presentations, panel discussions, and networking. Day 2 looked at funding opportunities and forming stakeholder groups. Guests included local legislators, Internet Service Providers, representatives from local tribes, governments and utilities, WSU, and more.