01/02/2024 - WCCBP - ~3 Minutes
Beacon Point Neighbors:
Since our last update , we received a number of questions from folks who live in Beacon Point asking why they aren’t getting fiber yet. We know it’s frustrating to watch the fiber become available everywhere while you remain an island of have-nots. We reached out to both the PUD and HCC for details and wanted to share what we learned.
This update only applies to Beacon Point and other areas in Mason County outside the current HCC project boundaries .
First, a bit of history. When utilities were first installed in Beacon Point, they were put underground, but no conduit was left for future uses (phone, cable, or fiber). While many of us have underground service on our driveways, the main trunk fiber is run on telephone poles. This makes it much cheaper and faster to install.
Second, some discussion of where the grant funds came from. This is one of the bigger differences between Jefferson County and Mason County. In Mason County, the money to install fiber came from a number of different grants: one grant ($700k from CERB) paid for the fiber to be run along US-101; another grant (ARPA) covered Colony Surf Divisions 5 & 6. This was an area where the PUD was also replacing underground power (no extra digging!) Other grants in Mason County covered different projects. Jefferson County was awarded a grant for the entire county south of Mt Walker (NTIA). Each grant had different restrictions and timelines, which is why some folks in Mason obtained service a year ahead of Jefferson County.
Now for some better news: service is possible to Beacon Point. Hood Canal Communications (HCC) has already invested in creating the network design designed and estimating the costs. Engineering estimates were about $3 million for 90 homes. This compares to the initial HCC grants for Jefferson County, which were $15MM to cover 862 folks . That cost difference was part of the reason Beacon Point wasn’t the first project (some grants had cost caps).
We’ve spoken with both Mason PUD1 and HCC this week, and can confirm HCC hasn’t given up on or forgotten Beacon Point (or other areas outside the current project areas.) HCC is actively looking into WA Public Works Board and US NTIA BEAD grants to help fund the project.
Unfortunately, like the first batches of grants, it takes time. The smaller and less expensive Mason County projects came first. Jefferson County came next.
We share a bit of your frustration, but are also realistic that HCC is a small, locally-owned company with about 50 employees. They need time to get through all of the recent expansion.
Help going forward will come in the form of letters of support once grants are written, Emailing your elected officials letting them know this is a funding priority, and ensuring you contribute data showing the coverage gaps (take our speed test and then go to the FCC map and “challenge” bad data if you can’t get service like Starlink.)
If you still have specific questions, please be aware that Mason PUD1 isn’t able to assist. While they have worked with HCC through this process on shared infrastructure, they can’t assist with Beacon Point. If you do contact HCC, be mindful they have been inundated with calls and questions and be kind.