Broadband feasibility study grant moves on
November 29, 2018
The Wahkiakum County PUD’s application for a broadband feasibility study grant has “passed the threshold,” and the next step, a presentation to the potential grantor, has tentatively been scheduled for mid-January, the Broadband Action Committee learned on Monday.
The PUD, which has taken the lead on the project, submitted the application to the Washington Department of Commerce’s Community Economic Revitalization Board, which has offered $50,000 grants to study broadband feasibility in rural communities in Washington.
The Wahkiakum County Commissioners have agreed to provide the 25 percent local match required for the grant earlier this month, approximately $16,650.
Dave Tramblie, the PUD general manager, said that he had also been talking to representatives from Noanet about the possible feasibility study.
“I think it’s probably a really good resource for us, as opposed to using other groups, but that is yet to be determined,” he said, before thanking the broadband committee for their continued efforts to bring broadband to the county.
Mary Beth Henry, who was appointed by the governor of Oregon in 2009 to the Broadband Council, a senior fellow with the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, and the keynote speaker at this year's Oregon’s Connections Conference, spoke to the committee about the role of broadband in digital equity and digital inclusion.
Wahkiakum is one of three counties to have the worst connectivity in the state of Washington, according to Henry. More than half of the citizens in Wahkiakum, Skamania, and Pend Oreille counties do not have access to broadband, which is defined federally as 25 megabits download and three megabits upload capability.
“Digital equity is the goal,” Henry said. “It’s really hard to find a life task that doesn’t require some kind of internet.”
Like their urban counterparts, rural residents also need access to affordable robust broadband, devices, digital literacy training, quality technical support, and relevant content. These things allow people to fill out job applications, do their homework, pay bills, communicate at work, and access health care.
“Broadband supports and enables everything,” Henry said. “It’s foundational. Digital skills underpin everything: economic opportunity, democracy, health care, education, and the environment.”