OLYMPIA – The Washington State Public Works Board has approved over $44.6 million in conditional grants for 15 broadband construction projects in unserved and underserved communities in Lewis County and across the state.
The need for broadband construction funding remains high. Applicants requested more than $90 million for 29 different projects, and the board approved qualified projects until all available program funds were exhausted. Demand exceeded available funds by 209%.
Public Works Board Chair Kathryn Gardow said, “To thrive in today’s society, internet access is a necessity for children, families, elders, and businesses. Affordable high-speed internet spurs economic growth and development, educates our students, facilitates tele-medicine in rural communities, and more. The federal and state governments are making significant broadband infrastructure investments to move Washingtonians towards a more connected state and nation.”
“This funding is among the important ways we’re working towards digital equity in Washington state. Working in tandem with the state Broadband Office and the Washington State Office of Equity, we are one step closer to our goal of making broadband available and affordable for every community in Washington, and to make sure everyone has the tools and skills they need to securely and successfully use the internet,” said Washington Commerce Director Lisa Brown.
Lewis County PUD expects to receive $9.45 million to build out internet networks connecting Vader, Mineral, Elbe and Ashford communities. Those projects may take up to two years to complete.
In comparison, other projects awarded conditional funding and coming closest to the amounts awarded to Lewis County PUD include the Clallam County Broadband Project, $4,525,174 and the Port of Coupeville’s Central Whidbey Island Project, $4,842,933.
Funding announced today is part of the 2021 State Legislature’s infrastructure investment of the federal Coronavirus Capital Project Fund, and continues the Legislature’s commitment to connect communities with little or no reliable, affordable broadband service. Awards are conditional on the receipt of federal funds.
The board will open an application cycle for $13 million in state funded broadband construction loans in spring 2022.