Approximately seventy-five people attended a short notice, community broadband meeting in Brinnon, Washington, on Saturday, November 5th. The meeting was part of an organizational effort by folks between the Hama Hama and Mt. Walker who either have no, or miserable broadband service. The group plans to take things into their own hands and establish a community owned system if commercial providers continue to ignore the area.
It was an old fashion, rural community get together on three days’ notice. The town hall meeting of the West Canal Community Broadband project, WCCBP, (as they call themselves) lasted ninety minutes, then broke into small group question and answer sessions. Growing quickly and driven by incredulous experiences with incumbent providers, where available, and the WCCBP website has nearly a hundred applicants.
After over two years of research and options evaluation, the leaders are proposing a wireless broadband system for the area. The signal, at least a full gigabit, would come in from the east, Seabeck area, to Mt. Jupiter. From there the service would be carried by a non-profit cooperative corporation made up of and owned by members of the community who become an owner/member. The signal would be relayed from points in Brinnon and Black Point, up and down the west canal. The group’s target service area is centered on the Duckabush and Dosewallips valleys, extending north toward Pulali Point and south to Canal Tracts, Eaglemount, Triton Cove, Beacon Point, and Eldon.
“It’s been more than 5 years since Washington D.C. invested in a statewide fiber-optic network. Our community constantly hears of alleged service in our area, only to learn the incumbents have no plans to expand service, and our only choices remain high cost national providers that limit use and keep speeds low. Research tells us of federal money for rural areas with no broadband, but Hood Canal Communications, WAVE and CenturyLink have failed to serve the area adequately,” said Phil Thenstedt, co-coordinator of the WCCBP. “DSL service is 20th Century and at peak times, dial up is faster.” As one attendee put it, “I guess we aren’t rural enough for the federal money, right?”
Thenstedt added, “We’ve done our homework, and pretty much have the technical side scoped out. We know it’s possible. In the end, this will come down to money, as it always does. We are looking at federal, state and local assistance, but since they have ignored us this long, it is highly probable that we will need to go it alone. We’re now focusing our work on creating and financing a co-op structure so the community remains in control, and we can move quickly.”
WCCBP is planning a second town hall meeting for December, 3rd, 4PM, Brinnon Community Center, Brinnon Washington.