High-speed Internet coming to Upper Valley

By Jason Miller
posted 6.13.12

The promise of high-speed Internet access is about to be realized in some of the smaller, rural communities of the Upper Skagit Valley.

In April, Frontier Communications began installing fiber-optic lines from Sedro-Woolley to Concrete. When those lines are in place, many more Upper Valley homeowners and small businesses as far east as Marblemount should have access to a high-speed DSL line. The new infrastructure should deliver speeds up to 7 MB, depending on where customers live and what Internet access package they choose. Frontier General Manager Henry Van told Concrete Herald the telecommunications company should be able to start selling high-speed Internet access in July or August.

“It’s a pretty exciting undertaking for East Skagit and a huge project for Frontier,” said Van. “We’ll soon have a very robust network to support large circuits and connectivity options.”

High-speed Internet access has been a stumbling block for the smaller communities along SR 20 ever since the Internet came into wider use in the early 1990s. With lower, more spread-out populations, the east county communities weren’t an attractive target for expensive infrastructure upgrades from Frontier or its predecessor, Verizon.

Van said when Frontier bought Verizon two years ago, part of the sale conditions were to expand broadband infrastructure to more than 80 percent of households in Washington. The company began a three-year plan to do that, and in Skagit, Whatcom, and Island counties—which Van manages—they’ll be above 85 percent by the end of the year.

“We wanted to get up to Hamilton and Lyman, and we cover about 85 percent of Concrete, but no Rockport, no Marblemount. It was a tough business case to make, because of the number of households.”

That changed when AT&T Wireless told Frontier it wanted circuits for its Upper Valley towers. Then other customers in the area started expressing an interest in needing bigger circuits and significantly faster transmission speeds—up to 20 GB.

“With regulatory commitments and commercial interest from larger customers, such as AT&T Wireless—that was enough to throw us over,” said Van. “It began to make sense from a business case. It was one of those perfect storms of great things lining up, and I think it’s going to be great for that neck of the woods.”

Frontier will spend almost $1 million to enhance fiber-optic lines and structures from Sedro-Woolley to Concrete. It will then install equipment along the SR 20 corridor so that DSL technology will be available to homeowners and small businesses in Lyman, Hamilton, Rockport, and Marblemount. Prices should run in the $50 to $60 range for those customers.

Van said equipment hubs will be set up in the central cores of each community; customers living within three miles of those hubs likely will qualify for high-speed service. In Lyman the hub will be near the town center area. In Hamilton it’s near Willie’s Hi-Lead. And it’s near the Post Office in Rockport and Marblemount.

Anyone wishing to talk to a local Frontier representative about prices, timing, or other releated questions is asked to contact local sales coordinator Kerry Leatherman at 360.770.0401 or kerry.leatherman@ftr.com.

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