The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Broadband committee ready to submit grant application


November 1, 2018

The Broadband Action Committee met on Monday evening to get an update from the Wahkiakum PUD, the lead agency on the project and hear from some locals about why this is a community issue.

Wahkiakum PUD General Manager Dave Tramblie said that they were nearly ready to submit an application to the Washington State Department of Commerce’s Community Economic Revitalization Board for a $50,000 feasibility grant.

The due date for this round of applications is November 26. Tramblie approached the Wahkiakum County Commissioners and asked if they would be willing to support the project by providing the 25 percent match required for the application, believing that 25 percent of $50,000 was $12,500. The commissioners agreed.

Unfortunately, CERB uses a different formula and Tramblie will have to approach the commissioners again to ask for another $4,160.

“There is a little resistance,” County Commissioner Mike Backman said at the broadband meeting on Monday. “Maybe we could see if some of these other groups could kick in some, if at all possible, that would be nice.”

“We’re kind of at the eleventh hour trying to get this application in by November 26,” Tramblie said. “If the county is unwilling to step up for that, we’ll probably have to put our application off so I have an opportunity to go to the city and the port and ask for a couple thousand dollars. So that’s kind of where we’re at.”

“It’s our tax payer money that is funding the county government,” Tim Hanigan said. “We can either take our tax payer money from the Port 1, Port 2 or the town, or we can take it from the county. It’s easier to take it from one source than three or four.”

“We need to work together,” Backman said. “But that doesn’t mean that one group is going to pack the whole load all the time.”

He encouraged the group to show up at the meeting to show support for the project.

“That’s part of the game,” he said.

The item is on the county commissioner agenda for Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. for local residents to ask commissioners to support an initiative to bring broadband to all the residents of Wahkiakum County.

Several local business owners and leaders in the community were invited to speak at the meeting about how the current level of internet service affects their business and lives.

One was Richard Erickson, who owns a bed and breakfast in the Little Cape Horn area.

“We are on Dish Network for satellite internet,” Erickson said, “which was fine when we first opened our business ten years ago but with technology changes we have been left in the dark.”

Weather affects speed, which creates problems for them with bookings. It also causes problems for guests who settle in at night to try and do a little work.

“We have to explain to our guests that they can do email and spreadsheets but that’s about it,” Richardson said. “It’s extremely frustrating for them. We only have so much we can download and the charges double because we use all of our data. It’s really archaic.”

He’s certain they are losing business.

“I don’t think they come back,” he said. “If you spend two hours on your computer at night and it takes three or four because you’re grinding away, you’re not going to go back to that establishment.”

Steve Carson fell in love with Skamokawa and bought a home there. He is an independent computer consultant, web developer, and programmer, and he needed internet to do business.

He started asking questions and eventually figured out how to connect to a fiber vault installed 400 feet from his house by Noanet. After asking more questions, he decided to become an internet service provider and now shares service with people near him in Skamokawa, including Vista Park.

“Before we tapped into his system, we had to give notices to every camper that said please do not use Netflix or Youtube, because it was so slow,” Port 2 Commissioner Lee Tischer said.

“Their credit card machine,” Carson added, “they would run something through and and it would come back. Sometimes a customer would get charged twice, sometimes they wouldn’t get charged at all, costing Port 2 money.”

Matt Ohrberg of Ohrberg’s Excavation on Puget Island said he communicates with his accountant via the internet, but some hours during his work day are very slow, and it takes longer.

“I want to be with my son,” he said. “It’s pretty frustrating.”

His service is provided by Cascade Networks, beamed across from Clifton Channel. He paid more for faster speed, but it’s not enough.


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