Improved Broadband Connectivity Coming to Puget Sound Region Thanks to $11.7 Million Grant

Federal grant will boost internet access for 100,000+ residents in Whidbey Island, Lummi Nation, San Juan County, Point Roberts, and Northwest Whatcom County; New infrastructure can help close the ‘homework gap’ for over 2,000 students in Blaine School District

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) announced $11,782,208 for the Whidbey Telephone Company to help complete the Point Roberts Middle Mile Infrastructure project. The funding comes from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program. Sen. Cantwell played a pivotal role in securing $1 billion for the program in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). 

“Middle mile deployment is critical to providing affordable and accessible high-speed internet in places that remain hard to serve," said Sen. Cantwell. "With this federal support, Whidbey Telephone will have more resources to deploy and improve middle mile infrastructure broadband for the underserved communities of Point Roberts, the tribal people of the Lummi Nation, and the Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. By building 47.6 miles of underground fiber and 63.1 miles of undersea fiber, this project will connect thousands of families living in some of the most remote parts of the United States who need affordable and reliable internet access.” 

The $11.7 million award will fund the construction, improvement, and acquisition of middle mile infrastructure for the residents of Point Roberts, Lummi Nation, Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, and surrounding areas.

Overall, the project includes 47.6 miles of new terrestrial underground fiber and 63.1 miles of undersea fiber, connecting all 80,000 Whidbey Island residents, 5,000 residents of Lummi Nation, 17,000 residents of San Juan County, 1,200 unserved residents of Point Roberts, and thousands more households in mainland Northwest Whatcom County.

The new middle mile funding will help connect all 2,164 students in the Blaine School District to high speed internet, and will connect 11 anchor institutions, like schools, libraries, healthcare providers, community colleges, public media, public housing, and other community organizations, six of which are currently unserved.

Middle-mile infrastructure connects network hubs with the retail networks (known as last-mile infrastructure) that directly serve homes and businesses. These are critical links, because last-mile broadband speed, reliability, and affordability is dependent on the middle-mile infrastructure that serves it.

As chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Sen. Cantwell has been a champion in securing funding for broadband connectivity in Washington state. In August 2022, Sen. Cantwell introduced the bipartisan Grant to Rapidly Invest and Deploy (GRID) Broadband Act to spur investment in a nationwide middle mile broadband infrastructure along our existing electricity grid.

In 2021, Sen. Cantwell helped secure $65 billion for the Internet for All Initiative in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). Through this initiative, the State of Washington received over $100 million for broadband deployment. Sen. Cantwell also supported the Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program, which has awarded over $93 million to 10 Tribes in Washington state. Earlier this week, Sen. Cantwell announced more than $76 million in broadband grants from the BIL for rural residents, farmers, and business owners across the State of Washington.