Officials consider islandwide high-speed internet

Elected officials in Island County discussed the possibility of implementing islandwide broadband last week at a Council of Governments meeting with the hope of eventually bringing faster internet speed to more individuals on Whidbey.

John Mishasek, a Port of Coupeville commissioner, has begun researching what it would take to extend fiber-optic cable across Whidbey Island. Fiber-optic wires can transmit data over long distances and faster than copper wires, increasing both download and upload speeds.

“I definitely do not claim to be an expert on broadband, but it’s one of the better ways to improve the infrastructure of Island County,” Mishasek said in an interview.

He said this could provide for more opportunities for information technology jobs and help local companies that perform the majority of their business online. He said there are businesses on South Whidbey that already have access to fiber optics and are able to upload much larger files. The benefits would reach other sectors besides business as well.

“High speed internet is about more than just business,” he said. “It’s online education; it’s expanding access to health care.”

Mishasek said he met with Whidbey Telecom, which has already installed fiber-optic cables on parts of the South End, to determine its interest in extending services across the island. Other providers will be considered, but Mishasek said he’d like the local company to be involved at some level.

Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson said at last week’s meeting she would bring together the public partners between Greenbank and Oak Harbor to gauge their interest level in this idea.

“I think we need to understand a little more what the commitment is for the investment,” she said at the meeting.

It is expensive to install fiber optics, which is why multiple public partners will have to work together on it, said Mishasek. However, he thinks it will be well worth the large price tag.

“Fiber-optic cables are like the highways were in the 50s…” he said. “It’s the technology that makes everything smoother and better.”

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