The Port of Whitman County is in the early stage of a project that should lead to more reliable internet service at competitive rates in rural cities.
The project will connect homes in five Whitman County cities and towns to fiber infrastructure. One of those selected cities, Palouse, is looking forward to being part of the fiber-to-the-home network.
“It will be a fantastic benefit,” said Palouse City Administrator Kyle Dixon.
Kara Riebold, Port of Whitman County CEO, said the other cities that will be part of the network are Rosalia, Tekoa, Garfield and Oakesdale.
The Rosalia project has been designed and is in the permitting stage, Riebold said. The Palouse design is being finished. She anticipates construction will start in late spring.
She said the port has been completing telecommunication infrastructure work for several years, and has identified a need in rural areas for better internet service at better rates.
According to a news release in August, people living in these communities frequently approach the Port of Whitman to help with their telecommunication needs.
Dixon said Palouse has fairly limited access to the internet, as most places in town do not have access to fiber. He said many rely on broadband, which can be unreliable.
In addition to benefiting residents, Dixon said availability of high-speed internet will also help the city achieve its goals of attracting new businesses to Palouse.
Riebold said all homes will be able to use the fiber network if they order service from an internet service provider. She said because the Port of Whitman County is funding the infrastructure, that should lower the costs of internet access for residents.
The Port of Whitman County will partially fund the estimated $4 million project with $1 million from Whitman County’s 0.09 funds, which come from sales and use tax for public facilities in rural counties.
The port also committed a $2 million local match, with the help of a loan and grant from the Washington state Department of Commerce.
Anthony Kuipers can be reached at (208) 883-4640, or by email to email@example.com.