Cantwell Applauds Start of High-Speed, Affordable Broadband Project in Pend Oreille County

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) applauded the start of a $34.1 million project that will bring high-speed, affordable broadband access to families and businesses in underserved parts of northeastern Washington. Pend Oreille County Public Utility District (PUD) will use a $27.3 million federal grant they were awarded last year to complete the broadband extension. As many as 3,200 households, 360 businesses, and 24 community anchor institutions will be able to take advantage of cheaper access. It will also enhance the Internet capabilities for health care facilities, higher education institutions, and government services.

“There is no reason why residents, businesses, and local consumers in Pend Oreille should live with slow and intermittent access,” wrote Cantwell in a letter to mark a PUD ribbon cutting ceremony. “This grant is part of our broader push for universal access to high-speed Internet, so all receive equal educational, business, and employment opportunities no matter where they live in Washington state. …Investing in broadband will translate into economic growth. This project will help attract new business and cottage industries, while better serving constituents, the hospital, the tribe, and other public entities.”

Once completed, the Pend Oreille PUD will be able to provide an open access fiber-optic broadband network along its electric service route to-the-premises of healthcare providers, school districts, libraries, government buildings, the Kalispell Tribe, significant commercial users, and others within the County. The broadband backbone that connects the new optical fiber optic broadband network to the internet at large will also be upgraded. Pend Oreille PUD will offer broadband service on a wholesale basis to competing broadband resellers, who in turn will sell the service to residents, businesses, and government at retail.

The funding is part of the Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.