YAKIMA-A Yakima ISP may soon expand broadband Internet infrastructure thanks to a decision by the Board of Yakima County Commissioners.
Commissioners will consider a letter on Tuesday to allow Washington Broadband of Yakima to receive grants to provide high-speed fiber-optic internet service to underserved areas.
The company, which has been an Internet service provider in the Yakima Valley for nearly 30 years, has provided fiber optic broadband Internet service to homes in rural Yakima County for several years, President Forbes Mercy said.
“Our goal has always been to continually improve speed for our customers,” Mercy wrote in an email to the Yakima Herald-Republic. “We are essentially investing in those who have trusted us for their internet needs for decades, as those needs are accelerating faster than technology.”
Fiber optic cable for Washington Broadband customers has been installed in the Cowich area in recent months, Mercy said, and more fiber optic installations are planned in the Naches area this winter.
The district commissioners’ actions could provide grants to expand the company’s efforts to build rural high-speed internet infrastructure, he added.
“As we spend nearly $1 million of our own budget annually on fiber rollout, the county sees us as a legacy broadband provider rather than a risky investment in an inexperienced internet builder,” Mercy wrote.
Previously, Mercy has criticized the use of federal funds for the broadband infrastructure.
When asked about the district’s upcoming resolution, Mercy said he appreciated the district commissioners’ approach to the issue of Internet access.
“It is never our desire to feel the thumb of regulations that might compromise our clients’ privacy and decision-making, restrict competition, or create unrealistic expectations of standards not consistent among grants from other public-private partnerships,” Mercy wrote. “That is why we have resisted any funding in the past.
“The similar nature of this group of commissioners in protecting their taxpayers, minimizing government involvement while accelerating high-speed access has interested us enough to enter a joint discussion phase to look for common ground,” he added.
During the commissioners’ working session on Friday, December 23, commissioned broadband consultant Joe Poire said that any infrastructure Washington Broadband deploys would be available to other ISPs.
“The system will be open to any provider who wants to use (the fibre),” Poire said.
“It’s about getting broadband to as many people as possible in the most efficient way,” added Commissioner Amanda McKinney.
Melissa Holm, program coordinator for Yakima County Human Services, said the resolution declaring Washington Broadband eligible for grant funding does not tie the county to any one company.
“This is one of the minimum requirements for the grant application,” said Holm. “I sent out notifications to all ISP providers (in Yakima County) inviting them to participate.
“If a scholarship is awarded, it would be channeled through Yakima County.”
The regular weekly meeting of commissioners is held Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Yakima County Courthouse and is also available online. For an agenda and to access the meeting online, visit yakimacounty.us/agendacenter.