Broadband internet gaps in county to be identified to increase services
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Broadband internet may be plentiful in big cities, but rural areas still are running slower than modern standards. Where there’s no speedy service, there are few to no alternates.
Where do the speed gaps lie? What areas lack the cables and lines today?
The county is hiring someone to start finding out this fall.
It’s part of the statewide initiative of broadband expansion programs. The goal is universal broadband access in all pockets of the state by 2024.
There are faint clues today on where there are gaps, particularly in north county and east county, through speed-test surveys done by the state’s Broadband Office. The public survey uses a website that conducts a speed test, although about 1,900 of the county’s 286,000 households did it at the time.
2021 surveys show Machias, Three Lakes, and the outskirts north of Monroe, plus the Highway 9 corridor between Lake Stevens and Arlington, are populated areas have internet speeds below broadband standards. Residents in the most outlying pockets might be buying satellite internet services as no internet lines come to them.
There’s a multimillion-dollar project going on right now to have Ziply Fiber bring cables from Arlington to Darrington by 2024.
The county’s study has multiple purposes, a county press release outlines.
It will forecast where internet infrastructure lags to population growth. It will comprehensively detail how fast internet service is, and which providers are serving the area.
In addition, it will consider affordability in conjunction with service speed.
At the state level, tons of investment is being done.
Beyond covering the map with broadband access by 2024, a further goal seeks to have minimum internet speeds of 150/150 megabits-per-second available statewide by 2028.
Today’s fastest Internet speeds well exceed 150 megabits per second, which equals 1.2 gigabits per second (Gbps).
People in Snohomish and Monroe have access to service speeds beyond 4 gigabits per second. Everett’s speediest exceeds 6 gigabits per second.
Those on some satellite systems tend to run at 0.25 gigabits per second — 25 megabits per second — which is the baseline the Federal Communications Commission defines as broadband speed. (There is chatter within the FCC to update this minimum to 1 gigabit per second.)
The state is giving “acceleration” grants to bring rural areas, well, up to speed.
The Darrington connection project got one of those grants, worth $16 million.
The state’s given a total of more than $145 million in grants for laying more fiber cable in the past two years.
The big companies are doing legwork themselves to expand speeds.
Comcast, for example, says it has “invested approximately 8 million during the past couple years to expand and enhance our network in Snohomish County,” a spokesman wrote. These include “several projects completed outside of Everett in Arlington, Lake Stevens, Monroe, Snohomish, and Sultan.”
In 2021, Ziply Fiber completed the key phase of a project to add more than 75 miles of new fiber-optic cables in Snohomish.
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