YAKIMA, Wash., Oct. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Governor Jay Inslee and local officials gathered in Yakima Tuesday to announce the completion of a 1,600 mile broadband network to bring high-speed Internet access to rural communities across Washington state.
Towns, cities and remote areas from Ilwaco to Colville and Asotin now have access to some of the fastest Internet service speeds in the country, service that was previously impossible due to geographic or financial hurdles.
Funded in part by two federal American Reinvestment and Recovery Act grants totaling nearly $140 million, the 1,600 mile broadband expansion is the result of a partnership between the state, public utility districts, local Internet service providers, cities and ports with construction overseen by NoaNet, a non-profit telecommunications provider.
"This is a hidden jewel for economic development in the state of Washington. It is underground, but its results are above ground," said Governor Inslee. "We are one of the most wired states in the nation, and that's just not because of the coffee."
Serving as a broadband highway for Washington state, the new network brings high-capacity Internet connections to hundreds of previously underserved libraries, police stations, city halls, colleges and other community institutions. Local Internet service providers can also connect to the network and provide service to customers in the area.
"This broadband initiative created immediate jobs during construction and brings economic investment to rural areas for years to come that have been left behind by the digital revolution," said Greg Marney, Chief Executive Officer of NoaNet. "Washington is now nationally recognized as one of the most wired states in the country and we're proud to have contributed to this accomplishment."
Remote areas have historically had only the most rudimentary Internet capabilities needed to share critical information among firefighters, police, hospitals and first responders. Additionally, businesses are often reluctant to relocate or expand in areas not served by broadband.
The new broadband service expands public safety access for critical emergency and healthcare technology to the hardest to reach areas in the state. It also provides opportunities for rural small businesses to participate in ecommerce and other online business programs not previously available.
"The strong partnership between all the entities involved was key to improving broadband access to nearly 50 local libraries," said Rand Simmons, Washington State Librarian. "Our state's libraries are now able to help community members participate in e-learning, e-government and provide online services and digital resources for the 21st century".
The new broadband infrastructure creates a seamless network connection capable of:
- Connecting community colleges and universities, creating opportunities for collaboration on research and information exchange.
- Providing police, fire and public safety agencies with enhanced communications and remote data access opportunities.
- Making remote diagnosis, enhancing professional training with reduced travel, and making it possible to provide immediate assessment and guidance to health care workers via videoconferencing.
- Enabling businesses to utilize broadband to enhance business-to-business and machine-to -machine computing requirements, allowing efficiencies in automation of processes including inventory and fulfillment systems and web oriented sales that are not currently available or extremely limited today.
- Giving farmers access to advanced production technologies and real-time online trading markets; improving efficiencies and worldwide competitiveness of this important commercial agriculture sector.
"Public utility districts have been working for more than a decade to bring broadband access to unserved and underserved areas of our state. We know from experience that world-class broadband connectivity is essential for job creation and providing key community services like healthcare, education and involvement in government," added Dave Siburg, General Manager of Kitsap PUD.
The network completion celebration took take place on Tuesday, October 29th at Yakima Valley Community College. The Community College's Grandview Campus is one of the hundreds of community institutions in Washington state now connected to the new high-speed broadband network.
NoaNet is leading the effort to expand broadband Internet access in Washington state on behalf of a consortium of more than 60 private, governmental, tribal and non-profit participants. NoaNet is a non-profit mutual corporation providing wholesale telecommunications transport and is headquartered in Tacoma, Washington. For more than 10 years, it has operated a reliable public open-access broadband communication network totaling 1,831 fiber miles that provides rural areas access to broadband services, supporting 61 last-mile providers that serve more than 260,000 customers. NoaNet's members are twelve public utility districts and a joint operating agency that have served wholesale customers in Washington state since 2000.