Hood Canal group eyes internet project

BRINNON — A group of Hood Canal residents aims to create an alternative, community-owned broadband system for internet service.

A community meeting to gauge interest in the West Canal Broadband Project is set for 11 a.m. Saturday at the Brinnon Community Center at 306144 U.S. Highway 101.

The idea is the brainchild of three people, according to Phil Thenstedt, spokesman for the group. He works in technology sales in East Puget Sound but lives in Brinnon.

“We’re in a high-speed-internet-challenged area and our choices are limited,” said Thenstedt, who telecommutes. “We’ve struggled for years.”

The group, which is not now a nonprofit, wants to create a nonprofit, community-owned organization to bring service for a reasonable fee, he said.

The idea is to buy internet from a wholesaler in Kitsap County, beam it to a station on Mount Jupiter and then to the users, offering internet ranging from 25 Mbps (megabits per second) up to 250 Mbps and that would offer at least three tiers of service.

Thenstedt said in the ideal situation, subscribers to the service would become members or co-owners of the nonprofit.

Exactly how much it would cost to set up the infrastructure needed isn’t known, Thenstedt said.

Because the network will be built to cover those who subscribe and because of the difficult topography of the area, it’s difficult to estimate the cost until it is known who is interested in the service, he said.

“It’s safe to say you could get quite a bit done for about $100,000,” he said, adding he thought it could be done for less and that it would likely take a loan to fund the initial work.

People who opted in to the all-wireless system would need to install equipment, costing less than $100, to receive a signal, he said.

People could install the antenna themselves or have it professionally installed, according to the group’s website.

The major provider in the area now is CenturyLink, Thenstedt said. CenturyLink offers up to 10 Mbps per second in the area, according to its website, www.getcenturylink.com.

Other options include satellite internet or service through wireless networks such as Verizon or AT&T, Thenstedt added.

Thenstedt is trying to gauge community interest. With 100 subscribers, he believes it could be a sustainable program.

Depending on how much money can be raised and how many people want to subscribe, it’s a project that could move forward quickly, he said.

“One thing people should know is this isn’t really a pipe dream,” he said. “It’s easy to accomplish.”

He pointed to the Doe Bay Internet Users Association as proof that it could be done. On Orcas Island, a small community created its own wireless internet network after facing many of the same issues as those who live on the West Hood Canal, he said.

He is urging people interested in joining the West Canal Broadband Project to attend the meeting and to visit www.west canal.net and input their address so organizers know where service is wanted.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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