In an exciting development for advancing rural broadband access in Washington State, Lewis County Public Utility District (LCPUD) has officially become a member of NoaNet Affiliate Member Program. NoaNet has been at the forefront of efforts to improve broadband access across Washington State, and its Affiliate Membership Program has opened the doors for public benefit agencies like LCPUD to contribute to this critical mission actively.
LCPUD, with its dedication to serving the needs of its community, found a natural synergy with the goals and values of NoaNet for expanding broadband infrastructure within its service territory. LCPUD provides electric service to substantially all of Lewis County (with the exception of the City of Centralia) and the southeast portion of Pierce County. The PUD serves about 35,000 electric customers. Additionally, the PUD operates approximately 88 miles of dark fiber and is in the process of constructing Fiber To The Premise (FTTP) infrastructure as a publicly-owned open access network within its service territory.
Empowering Rural Communities
As we enter an era where connectivity is not just a convenience but a necessity, this collaboration will allow Lewis PUD enhanced access to NoaNet staff and resources to expand its broadband services and provide customers with more reliable, high-speed internet. Rural communities often face unique challenges when it comes to broadband access. Remote locations, challenging terrain, and limited resources can make it difficult for these areas to keep pace with urban centers in terms of connectivity. By joining forces with NoaNet in this formal relationship, LCPUD gains access to a wealth of resources and expertise, enabling it to more efficiently and effectively address these challenges and bring economies of scale to develop the local infrastructure to serve Lewis County PUD communities.
A Shared Vision
At the heart of this partnership is a shared vision for a digitally inclusive future. Both LCPUD and NoaNet are committed to ensuring that all communities, regardless of their geographical location, have access to the essential services and opportunities that reliable broadband internet provides. By pooling their resources and expertise, LCPUD and NoaNet are working together to address the digital divide that has persisted for too long in rural Washington. They aim to uplift communities, create educational opportunities, and foster economic development in these regions through enhanced connectivity.
The PUD has had a dark fiber network operational for many years and has recently expanded its efforts to include fiber to the home residential networks. Already, the PUD has an impressive track record of obtaining grants to develop this last-mile infrastructure within Lewis County, with nearly $50 million awarded in the past two years. The construction of the first of these grant-funded broadband deployments is scheduled to commence in the fall of 2023.
LCPUD’s decision to join NoaNet’s Affiliate Membership Program is a significant milestone in the journey toward comprehensive broadband access in Washington State. It demonstrates the power of collaboration between public benefit agencies, each driven by a shared commitment to improving the lives of their communities. As this partnership continues to evolve, it promises a brighter and more connected future for rural Washington. By working together, LCPUD and NoaNet are making strides in leveling the playing field and ensuring every community can thrive in the digital age.