[2/25/22] Okanogan PUD Focuses On Broadband Grant
At their most recent meeting, the Okanogan PUD commission approved an application for $14.4 million from the USDA ReConnect Program, continuing its attempts to secure grant funding for broadband expansion. They also approved documents that will give the PUD a better chance of being awarded the grant. The proposed funding area includes a variety of rural areas in the northcentral and northeast portions of the county, which could connect approximately 1,400 residences and 750 business to direct fiber.
The commission approved updated wholesale broadband rates to comply with the grant, adding a 1-gigabyte connection rate, even though service providers don’t yet offer that to residences. Other adjustments reflect the changes in service that have been requested by customers or anticipate
additional service categories.
The board also approved a commitment to net neutrality. The PUD says it has always functioned in such a way to treat all lawful traffic fairly, but needed a written policy to comply with the USDA grant request.
In 2022, the PUD added 105 new fiber connections, the highest in a single year. Director of Power Resources and Broadband Services Ron Gadeberg said supply chain issues are causing some jobs to be slowed now since certain types of fiber are unavailable. Total fiber connections are now at 656, with an additional 3,100 wireless connections on the PUD system.
In other business, the commission heard a report from Energy Services Coordinator Kim Johnson about the Bonneville Power Administration energy efficiency incentives program. She shared that in the 2019-2021 rate period, the PUD had just over $1.2 million available for incentive programs, which were used for a variety of standard efficiency incentives, commercial and industrial custom projects, LED light kits, and PUD infrastructure projects. For 2021-2023, the PUD has about $920,000 available for those programs. The PUD is working with several fruit warehouses, schools and others for large projects.