PUD bringing high-speed Internet to Lyman area

By Jason Miller
Posted 7.17.12

A plan to bring high-speed Internet to a stretch of the Upper Valley between Punkin Center and Lyman could spell relief for businesses and homeowners who have struggled with sluggish transmission speeds for years.

Skagit County Public Utility District plans to connect them to an existing backbone of fiber optics it installed in 2007, which runs from Sedro-Woolley to Hamilton. If all goes according to plan, the project will be complete by March 19, 2013.

Potential customers in the affected area have Ryan Jepperson to thank. Jepperson, who lives between Lyman and Hamilton in unincorporated Skagit County, grew frustrated last year with the ever-slowing line speeds he was experiencing. Jepperson works from his home four out of five days every week, as a software engineer for Microsoft.

“I had tried every option available,” he said. When he moved to his current home in 2009, Broadstripe cable delivered tolerable transmission speeds. But it’s only gotten slower. Now, he can barely perform his duties.

Jepperson approached the PUD about their unused fibers. “I asked if I could secure funding to make use of some of those unused fibers, would they be willing to do that? They said yes,” said Jepperson.

Jepperson completed a grant application for funding through EDASC, and gained a like-minded partner in Lyman Town Councilman Eddie Hills, who also works from home as a recruiter for pharmaceutical and biotech companies. He drummed up letters of support from local businesses and county commissioners, and kept the project top of mind among the other Lyman councilmembers and Lyman Mayor Debra Heinzman.

The grant was approved last September, giving the PUD 18 months to complete the project, till March 19, 2013.

No work has yet begun, which is causing Jepperson and Hills some concern. They’ve attended almost every weekly commissioner meeting, doing what they can to coax the project along. At press time, one more WSDOT approval had yet to be submitted, as well as a PSE and Skagit Planning Dept. approval.

The PUD did not return a call for comment.

The EDASC grant will fund branches of fiber from the backbone, rather than extending the backbone itself. It will feed businesses and government along the line, including Lyman Elementary, which was connected on June 27.

Homeowners should benefit too, since the PUD plans to lease fibers to Internet Service Providers, such as Wave Cable. Another ISP, Mt. Vernon-based Diversant, may be interested in approaching businesses in the area, according to Jepperson. With Frontier expanding its DSL offerings in the same area, local businesses and residents will have more than just the ability to sign up for high-speed Internet access, they’ll have options.

Jepperson is looking forward to the change. “Competition is good,” he said.

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