Chelan PUD on track to achieve milestone for broadband access

by Rachel Hansen | Apr 03, 2023

Chelan PUD is on track to extend its wholesale broadband network to 85 percent of Chelan County by the end of 2026 – a goal identified in the utility’s 2015-2019 strategic plan. Commissioners discussed next steps for fiber expansion Monday. (Audio starts at 01:09:00 on the board recording.)

Commissioners have committed $27 million from the utility’s Public Power Benefit Program to extend the broadband network to 9,256 additional homes and businesses by 2027. So far, the PPB fiber project has extended access to 5,531 premises, with 3,725 more scheduled to be connected over the next three years.

The Public Power Benefit Fund uses revenues from surplus energy sales to support community-minded projects, which means the fiber expansion project was funded with no additional cost to customers.

Over the next six months, PUD staff will continue to develop a long-term plan for fiber expansion beyond 2026, including scope, schedule, resources and budget. As part of that process, the PUD is also considering alternative ways to provide internet access for rural, hard-to-reach areas.

“That 85 percent mark that we’re reaching for is a moving target,” Commissioner Carnan Bergren said. “Eight-five percent six years ago is a lot different than what we’re looking at today. I hope down the road we define a service territory.”

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