Cantwell: Grant Will Create Jobs, Expand Broadband Access to Underserved Communities

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) today said that an $84.3 million grant to a Washington state non-profit organization will expand and improve high-speed broadband internet infrastructure across the state. Cantwell applauded today’s announcement by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke of the grant to the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet). The funding, under the Commerce Department’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP), will finance expansion of NoaNet’s existing high-speed broadband network infrastructure. Improvements to the network will bring state-of-the-art broadband technology to communities across the state with no access, or poor access, to high-speed internet service. The funding will also establish advanced broadband networks directly to libraries, key medical research centers and clinics, community colleges, cultural centers, and government facilities. BTOP is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passed by the Congress in 2009.

“This project will create nearly 2,000 total jobs through its completion,” Cantwell said. “Just as important, it will expand the NoaNet’s high-speed network so that it can reach more rural communities, lowering the barriers for ‘last mile’ internet providers to investment in bringing fast broadband service to these un-served and underserved communities. So this means jobs and economic activity both now and in the future.”

Cantwell said the grant will create a new WA-Health Net sub-network, under which a substantial portion of the state’s hospitals and clinics will be connected to each other. As a result, people in rural areas will have access medical specialists, remote diagnostic imaging, and laboratory and health services, comparable to those living in major cities.

“Residents in communities with limited internet service or none at all will benefit from the WA-Library Net sub-network,” Cantwell said. “Libraries often serve as information hubs in rural Washington. WA-Library enables individual libraries in rural communities to provide its residents with free access to high-speed Internet service and computers for public use, and then links these libraries together. Many rural libraries today in rural Washington at best can only offer basic broadband service.”

NoaNet is a non-profit corporation owned by 12 public utility districts (PUD) and one joint operating agency providing broadband and wholesale network services to last-mile providers on a cost basis in predominantly underserved areas. NoaNet fiber optic broadband network operates throughout the state, connecting the local PUD communications networks to each other and to the major carrier connection points in Seattle, Spokane and Portland. The connection points, such as the Pacific Northwest GigaPOP in Seattle, will allow NoaNet users in rural Washington the ability to connect to cutting-edge research and educational networks serving the Pacific Northwest as well as the entire Pacific Rim.

The project plans provide high-speed internet service to 57 libraries, 22 government facilities, 38 medical centers, two tribal service centers and four community colleges. Additionally, approximately 380,000 households, 18,000 businesses, and 1,300 anchor institutions will have more affordable broadband Internet services by enabling last mile providers to connect to the network.
The NoaNet broadband network parallels the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) transmission system and uses fiber supplied by BPA or other providers in areas where BPA fiber is not available. NoaNet’s network now includes 1,831 fiber miles, supporting 61 last mile providers that serve more than 260,000 customers.

Participating in the project are:

• Association of Washington Public Health Districts
• Black Rock Cable
• Clallam Public Utility District
• Franklin County Public Utility District
• Inland Northwest Health Services
• Jamestown S'Klallam Tribe
• Makah Tribe
• Pacific County Public Utility District
• Pacific Northwest GigaPoP
• Port of Whitman County
• Sawtooth Technologies
• South Central WorkSource
• Washington State Department of Health
• Washington State Library
• Yakima County