PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County’s broadband network is projected to start making money in 2025 based on assumptions made by the Public Utility District and its consultant.
In a presentation to the Jefferson County PUD commissioners Tuesday, staff said the network would lose money in its first few years of operation but that it would quickly begin to generate substantial revenue for the utility.
“We’re confident that by 2027 fiber will be subsidizing electric,” said Doug Dawson, president of CCG Consulting, the Asheville, N.C.-based business the utility hired to help build out the broadband network.
Dawson qualified his statement to say that, while the broadband network is expected to generate healthy revenues by 2027, what the utility does with the funds will be a future decision of the commissioners.
Broadband and Communications Director Will O’Donnell told commissioners it was the utility’s intention to use that money to continue to build out the broadband network.
Based on the amount of grant funding the utility has received and the number of customers already signed up for the program, projections from Dawson and PUD staff show broadband bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually beginning in 2025.
According to the utility’s projections, the broadband service will net PUD more than $574,000 in 2025, $434,000 in 2026 and $413,000 in 2027 after costing $523,000 in 2023 and $272,000 in 2024.
According to PUD staff, the utility has already signed up 47 percent of potential customers across the four service areas for the broadband network, even though construction on the fiber network has yet to begin.
O’Donnell said after the meeting that the utility is currently working on constructing its core network and hopes to begin construction on the fiber connections in May.
Part of the success of the network has to do with the amount of grant funding the PUD has received from state and federal governments. Dawson, who works across the nation, said he’s never seen such a small utility receive so much grant funding.
“It’s a very small country contribution for the amount of money that you’re getting,” Dawson said.
The PUD already has received grants from the Washington State Broadband Office, the Washington State Public Works Board and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
The utility also has applied for a combination grant and loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect program, which has not yet been awarded.
Dawson told commissioners Tuesday the PUD received a high score under USDA’s metrics and that other funding opportunities would be available in the future if the loan is not awarded.
Dawson’s projections for repayments of that loan assumed a 4 percent interest rate but could be as low as 2 percent.
O’Donnell said the PUD hopes to hear back about the USDA grant and loan in April, but it could be later this summer.
“We’ve been one of the most successful PUDs and counties in the state, but there’s still a lot of work to do,” O’Donnell said.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.