Port of Coupeville is working to upgrade to a fiber-optics system that would bring faster internet to Whidbey Island.
The port received a $50,000 grant, announced in March, and is deciding which firm will conduct the study that will define local broadband needs, assess current infrastructure and consider the feasibility of fiber optics models to service the island’s residents.
The port currently has a commitment letter for $5,000 from Whidbey Telecom. Pending are commitment letters from Town of Coupeville for $1,000, City of Oak Harbor for $5,000 and Island County for the balance of $5,667.
The port is working to meet the pre-contract conditions involved with the award. There is a July 18 deadline, but the port’s presiding officer, John Mishasek said they will request an extension.
The port won’t be required to come up with funds to match the grant, Mishasek said, and there won’t be a significant cost to the port to have the study done.
Commissioner David Day voiced reservations about what installing the fiber-optics system would entail. Mishasek responded that the study will answer questions about installation and potential cost.
The port is working to choose a vendor that will be funded by the grant to perform GIS mapping and initial design work to determine potential costs and revenues to pay for the infrastructure over time,” Mishasek said.
The process has been in progress since March 2017.
Benefits from a fiber-optic cable system include new job opportunities, improved education equity for all children, new home-based health care technology and new ways for governments to reduce their cost of operation, he said.
After the broadband is built, it will be open access — or available — to any internet service providers wanting to bring their services in and compete.
Mishasek said it’s the job of a port to do “what private industry cannot or will not do — build infrastructure for the benefit of its citizens.”