Broadband speed action taken by PUD for Marrowstone Island

PORT TOWNSEND — Marrowstone Island residents are another step closer to high-speed broadband internet service, according to a letter of intent with CenturyLink approved by Jefferson County Public Utility District commissioners.

Under the agreement the PUD commission approved unanimously Tuesday, CenturyLink would provide the last mile of connections to 85 percent of the residents on Marrowstone with a minimum of 10 megabits per second (mbps) download speeds.

If terms are agreeable, work will be completed by December.

“The PUD has worked very hard to build some relationships and better provide for the customers in Jefferson County,” said Kevin Streett, PUD acting general manager.

“This is one step in offering additional capacity on Marrowstone Island,” he said. “If the PUD agrees to lease fiber to CenturyLink, 85 percent of customers will have a minimum of 10 mbps or better. This is a good agreement for the PUD and the people on Marrowstone Island.”

Will O’Donnell, PUD communications manager, said Marrowstone Island residents now have barely 1 mbps speeds for their current service.

“This will very quickly improve internet for the vast majority of residents,” O’Donnell said.

Under terms of the agreement, the PUD would provide CenturyLink with a fiber lease agreement for 12 single strands of fiber from Robbins Road to Oak Bay Road.

This would include three access points that would be mutually agreed on by the parties.

CenturyLink would provide the PUD with six strands of fiber from Robbins Road to Fort Flagler, with three access points selected by the PUD.

“Our deal with CenturyLink is a fiber swap,” O’Donnell said.

“They will run fiber down the island and we will have access to it. We will use one strand for the SCADA [supervisory control and data acquisition]. That’s how we monitor our electrical control from a distance.

“We’ll be able to reroute power to go around a service area that is out, or help us with our system monitoring. Five strands of fibers will be available for other ISPs including NOP Data Centers and Marrowstone Wireless, to connect with high speed service.”

Commissioners also discussed a second letter of intent to participate in a fiber share with CenturyLink along Beaver Valley Road from the Chimacum four corners intersection to the Port Ludlow substation.

The intent is to connect the SCADA system to the substation and provide access for local ISPs. Customers who currently have service with CenturyLink would see their speeds improve.

Commissioner Jeff Randall said the agreement is an important step for the utility.

“It’s what I believe we are supposed to be doing in broadband, and we are trying to expand services to those who at least don’t have the best services,” Randall said.

“We would like to move forward [with the letter of agreement]. It allows Century Link to upgrade their facilities on the island and allows the PUD to continue talks. As long as they they are following the milestones, the PUD will honor the agreement.

“This is more than a baby step, it’s the beginning step of collaboration with the goal of improving service,” he said.

Commissioner Kenneth Collins is hopeful that this will be mutually beneficial.

“We’ve been working with local ISPs, WAVE and CenturyLink for a period of time,” Collins said. “It’s an important change where it will be mutually advantageous for us to do a fiber swap. That will avoid costs for both sides.

“The cost of undergrounding fiber is five times that of hanging it from poles. So it will hang from poles. They will replace their three control boxes on Marrowstone, upgrading them.

“Generally speaking, depending how far away from the boxes they are, most people will be able to get 10 mbps down,” Collins said.

“Upload will be 1 to 2 mbps by the end of the year. Many have had less than 1 mbps for literally years. That will be an improvement.”

Karen Bennett, a member of the PUD’s broadband subcommittee, said she was thrilled to see the expansion of broadband, especially in Beaver Valley and said she hoped CenturyLink would indeed supply 10 mbps.

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Jefferson County Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at jmcmacken@peninsuladailynews.com.

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