The Jefferson County Public Utility District is encouraging its customers to take part in both a survey and a symposium on broadband internet access.
With the Federal Communications Commission’s 2016 report showing that only 81 percent of Jefferson County residents have access to broadband, PUD Communications Manager Will O’Donnell acknowledged that “what Jefferson County residents actually have or use has not been fully surveyed,” but he promised it would be soon.
O’Donnell elaborated that the county’s households and businesses would be surveyed to determine what they’re using the internet for, how they’re accessing the internet and what speeds their connections offer.
PUD staff worked with members of their Citizens Advisors Board and Magellan Advisors to create the online survey, that has tentatively been scheduled for release in in March, which is set to include a speed test, as well as questions about the costs and reliability of respondents’ internet service.
In the meantime, the PUD is partnering with the Team Jefferson Economic Development Council, the North Olympic Development Council and the Port of Port Angeles, among others, to organize a two-day, two-county summit on improving access to broadband internet.
The North Olympic Peninsula Broadband Symposium is set to run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 18, and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. March 19, at the Jamestown S’Klallam Red Cedar Hall in Blyn. While the event is free and open to the public, its limited space means attendees must register at nop.broadband.brownpapertickets.com.
The event’s keynote speaker is Christopher Mitchell, a leading national expert on community networks and Internet access, who also runs MuniNetworks.org, an online clearinghouse of information about local government policies to improve Internet access.
Mitchell plans to give an overview of what broadband is, why it’s an essential utility service, and how local communities across the country have created public/private coalitions to bring affordable high-speed broadband internet to unserved and under-served communities.
Mitchell will be followed by Vince Liberatore of Microsoft’s Airband Initiative, a newer technology model that uses a combination of fixed wireless technologies, including unassigned broadcast spectrum often referred to as “TV white spaces,” to connect rural residents to high-speed internet. Liberatore will report on Microsoft’s efforts to augment the FCC by gathering better data on who is actually served with broadband internet in the U.S.
John Flanagan, broadband policy Advisor to Gov. Jay Inslee, will telecommute to give an update on broadband legislation and funding currently under consideration by the legislators in Olympia, while Ben Merkle, from U.S. Sen. Patty Murray’s office, will likewise provide an update on federal activity regarding broadband.
Monica Babine of Washington State University’s Program for Digital Initiatives will be joined by WSU Stevens County Extension Director Debra Hansen, and Karen Perry of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration Broadband USA program, to provide an introduction on how to form broadband action teams, and to help lead and facilitate breakout groups through the process.
“We are excited to bring together experts on broadband to work with local government and local citizens, to address the need for affordable high-speed internet in our region,” said Karen Affeld, executive director of the NODC.
For more information, including an agenda and speaker’s list, go to noprcd.org/events.