Good news rang in Washington State when I joined representatives from Mason Public Utility District (PUD) 3 at the start of USDA’s Broadband ReConnect Workshop in Seattle to celebrate a $2.4 million investment to bring high-speed broadband to 250 households and businesses in rural Mason County.
Working with our local partner, Mason PUD 3, based in Shelton, we will help deliver gigabit-speed fiber-optic service to Mason County’s unserved Three Fingers area in the Grapeview community.
“For over 80 years, Mason PUD 3 has been building infrastructure to stand the test of time, all for the benefit of our customers,” said Annette Creekpaum, Mason PUD 3 manager. “I see this as recognition that our employees truly reflect our mission of always providing safe, reliable, economical service, 24/7.”
PUD 3’s Fiberhood program identifies neighborhoods that are unserved or underserved by broadband providers. Their Three Fingers Rural Broadband Fiber Project will provide middle-mile and last-mile fiber-optic service to each premises located within the targeted area.
As a public utility, it is PUD 3’s intent to recover costs, not create a profit. Cost recovery for the Fiberhood program comes through a monthly “construction adder fee” paid back over 12 years. USDA’s ReConnect Program will help Mason PUD 3 and its customers bridge the digital divide and ensure equal access to this essential utility for all citizens.
Over the past year, Three-Fingers residents have lobbied hard with PUD 3 to seek broadband solutions for their community.
"In earlier times, it was essential for a business to have reliable, affordable telephone service," said Norman Nault, Three Fingers resident and Managing Director of PACIFICA TINAAX, LLC. "Now, we also need reliable, affordable internet access."
Other residents had similar sentiments:
“I would be so grateful for fiber optics because I have children who use the internet for school as well as children who are overseas and this would increase our ability to talk to them. Please give us fiber optic internet!” – Bronia C.
“We are in dire need of a better internet connection to help me with my schooling. I live in the Three Fingers area.” – Kristine H.
“I would happily pay a surcharge over the monthly service fee to cover the cost of construction, and I know most of my neighbors would as well. Satellite internet is a curse, and an expensive curse at that. We are desperate.” – Martha L.
The great task of our generation is clear; ensure that all rural residents and future generations have the same access to affordable high-speed broadband as their urban and suburban counterparts. The ReConnect Pilot Program is helping to satisfy our mandate to improve the quality of life of all rural residents by improving their access to education, health care and economic opportunity, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.