YAKIMA –A Yakima internet service provider could soon expand broadband internet infrastructure thanks to a Board of Yakima County Commissioners resolution.
Commissioners will consider a letter on Tuesday to allow Washington Broadband of Yakima to receive grant funding to provide fiber carrying high-speed internet service to underserved areas.
The company, which has been a Yakima Valley internet service provider for nearly 30 years, has been deploying fiber for broadband internet services to homes in rural areas of Yakima County for several years, president Forbes Mercy said.
“Our goal has always been to continually upgrade speeds for our customers,” Mercy wrote in an email to the Yakima Herald-Republic. “We are essentially reinvesting in those who have trusted us for decades for their internet needs, as those needs accelerate faster than technology.”
In recent months, fiber has been installed for Washington Broadband customers in the Cowiche area, Mercy said, with more fiber installation planned this winter in the Naches area.
The county commissioners’ action could provide grant funding to help expand the company’s efforts to build infrastructure for rural high-speed internet, he added.
“Spending close to a million dollars a year of our own budget on fiber deployment, the county has seen us as a legacy broadband carrier, and not as a risky investment into an inexperienced builder of the internet,” Mercy wrote.
Previously, Mercy has criticized the deployment of federal funding toward broadband infrastructure.
When asked about the pending county resolution, Mercy said he appreciates the county commissioners’ approach to the internet access issue.
“It’s never our desire to feel the thumb of regulations that could compromise the privacy and decision making of our customers, reduce competition, or provide unrealistic expectation of standards not consistent in grants issued in other public-private partnerships,” Mercy wrote. “This is why we have resisted any funding in the past.
“The similar nature by this group of commissioners to protect their taxpayers, minimize government involvement, while accelerating high-speed access, has us interested enough to enter into a mutual discussion period looking for common ground,” he added.
During the commissioners’ Friday, Dec. 23, work session, contracted broadband consultant Joe Poire said whatever infrastructure Washington Broadband builds would be available to other internet service providers.
“The system will be open access to any provider who wants to use (the fiber),” Poire said.
“The point is to get broadband to as many people as possible in whatever way is most efficient,” Commissioner Amanda McKinney added.
Melissa Holm, program coordinator for Yakima County Human Services, said the resolution declaring Washington Broadband eligible for grant funding does not obligate the county to any one company.
“This is one of the minimum requirements for the grant application,” Holm said. “I sent out notifications to all ISP providers (in Yakima County) to invite them to participate.
“If a grant is awarded, it would route through Yakima County.”
The commissioners’ regular weekly meeting is 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Yakima County Courthouse, and is also available online. For an agenda and online access to the meeting, visit yakimacounty.us/agendacenter.