Image Courtesy of the Office of the Governor

Image Courtesy of the Office of the Governor

The passing of Governor Jay Inslee’s broadband bill earlier this month included the establishment of a statewide broadband office and a grant and loan program to help communities across the state construct and install broadband service.

San Juan and Skagit Counties recently had the opportunity to present the Governor with a day-long tour to showcase broadband projects in the works, and provide input on focus issues for the soon-to-be established Statewide Broadband Office. Over the course of the tour, multiple stakeholders, including the Ports of Skagit and Bellingham, showed the Governor how increased broadband access could positively impact community health care, economy, education and public safety interests.

At the Governor’s meeting in Burlington, Port of Skagit Executive Director Patsy Martin noted park tenants came to her 14 years ago saying the dialup they used was too slow and expensive. “They said, ‘We can’t survive like this — you have to fix it,’” Martin said. The Port of Skagit established various partnerships to increase internet access, and currenty hosts a fiber project for broadband infrastructure. The aerospace, agriculture and maritime industries have broadband needs that are currently unmet in Skagit County, Martin also remarked “It takes a lot of bandwidth for an architectural firm or aerospace company to send engineering drawings back and forth, for example. The small business model is truly what makes Skagit County work. And most, if not all, small businesses need broadband just to operate,“ Broadband also assists with the operation of high-tech farming equipment.

“The areas where we’ve had broadband has helped us attract businesses,” Martin said. “Many of them are at the business park because broadband is there. For example, in Concrete, they have a harder time because they don’t have it.”

The future Statewide Broadband Office will serve as the central place to plan and coordinate public and private efforts to expand broadband access statewide, and will also provide information abotu state and federal broadband programs, and set state broadband policy. Funding in the Capital Budget is also set to establish a broadband grant and loan program for the acquisition, construction and installation of broadband service in underserved areas, as administered through the Public Works Board.

For more information on the Governor’s Broadband Tour, visit goskagit.com, or the Governor’s Medium page.