2021 survey results from the State Broadband Survey for Snohomish County. (Washington State Department of Commerce)

2021 survey results from the State Broadband Survey for Snohomish County. (Washington State Department of Commerce)

$16M grant to speed up broadband to north Snohomish County

In Darrington and elsewhere, rural residents have struggled to work remotely during the pandemic. A new project aims to help.

DARRINGTON — At Mayor Dan Rankin’s house, only one person can be online at a time.

“If one of us is on Zoom or a Google Meet, the other person who is working has to quit,” Rankin said.

In Darrington and other rural communities, many residents have struggled to work remotely during the pandemic due to slow connections, Rankin said.

And over the past two years, fast and reliable internet has become an absolute necessity for work, school and telemedicine.

Internet is often expensive and options are limited in rural Snohomish County, the mayor said.

A collaboration between county government and internet provider Ziply Fiber aims to expand high-speed internet access to businesses and thousands of residents along Highway 530.

The county announced the partnership last week along with a $16.7 million grant from the state Department of Commerce Broadband Office.

The grant will help pay to build a fiber network from Arlington to Darrington.

The project promises to provide direct connections to nearly 5,600 locations, offering internet speeds of at least 100 Mbps download and upload speeds. The first customers could get connected January 2024, according to the county.

The project is to be a major leap forward for places with unreliable or no service, county and local leaders said.

“My hope is that everybody has that opportunity (for high-speed internet), not just the folks who live in town or the small circles of connectivity throughout the community,” Rankin said. “It becomes an equity issue for everybody out here.”

The project is expected to serve about 6,500 students in the Arlington, Darrington and Stanwood-Camano school districts.

Snohomish County was one of 14 communities awarded $145 million in state grants to expand broadband this month.

The grants targeted communities with download speeds slower than 25 Mbps — the bare minimum for high-speed broadband defined by the Federal Communications Commission. The state has a much more ambitious goal: 150 Mbps for all residents and businesses by 2028.

Broadband Speed Test Survey map showing internet connectivity. The red dots represent areas of low service, and the black dots areas of no service. Yellow/green dots are medium to high service. (Washington State Department of Commerce)

Broadband Speed Test Survey map showing internet connectivity. The red dots represent areas of low service, and the black dots areas of no service. Yellow/green dots are medium to high service. (Washington State Department of Commerce)

Last year, Snohomish County Council members Nate Nehring and Sam Low and county Executive Dave Somers formed the Broadband Action Team to gather data on broadband need throughout the county.

“It showed some significant gaps … and this is one of them, on the (Highway) 530 corridor,” Nehring said.

Nehring, who represents the district from Stanwood to Darrington, said the county is discussing using American Rescue Plan Act funds to build connections in other rural parts of the county, where fiber installation can be costly.

Ziply Fiber, headquartered in Kirkland, has partnered with local governments around Washington on similar fiber projects in the past.

The total cost of the Snohomish County project is about $27.6 million, according to the county’s grant application. Ziply will cover the portion not funded by the grant, with the help of federal money.

The new funding will speed up the project by two years over Ziply’s previous timeline, according to the county.

According to the grant application, Ziply would need to “ensure long term service to … residents, businesses and community institutions in the project area.”

Ziply spokesperson Dan Miller said the company expects to begin construction on the network this summer, both on utility poles and underground.

Darrington School District Superintendent Tracy Franke said she is grateful a portion of the district’s 420 students may have reliable home internet access in the future. However, families in the district who reside in Skagit County won’t benefit, she said.

“These are the same kids that during our distance learning, they didn’t even have reliable cell service” to connect to Wi-Fi hotspots, she said.

Students have returned to classrooms, but they still need to get online to turn in homework and communicate with teachers, she said.

“It would be amazing if the counties could work together to get that section of the school district covered, and all of our families would have the equitable services,” Franke said.

The state is making an additional $120 million in grants available this spring for fiber construction.

Jacqueline Allison: 425-339-3434; jacqueline.allison@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @jacq_allison.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Mike Rosen
Businessman Mike Rosen announces campaign for mayor of Edmonds

Rosen, a city planning board member, is backed by five former Edmonds mayors. It’s unclear if incumbent Mike Nelson will run again.

FILE - A Boeing 747-8, Boeing's new passenger plane, takes its first flight, Sunday, March 20, 2011, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. After more than half a century, Boeing is rolling its last 747 out of a Washington state factory on Tuesday night. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing’s last 747 to roll off the Everett assembly line

The Queen of the Skies was dethroned by smaller, more fuel-efficient jets. The last 747s were built for a cargo carrier.

PUD workers install new transformers along 132nd Street on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022 in Mill Creek, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Electric vehicles spur big forecast jump for PUD demand

Not long ago, the Snohomish County PUD projected 50,000 electric cars registered in the county by 2040. Now it expects up to 660,000.

Traffic moves northbound on I-5 through Everett on Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Grinding work still needed for I-5 through Everett

Construction crews need warmer temps for the work to remove what a reader described as “mini raised speed bumps.”

After a day of learning to fight fires, Snohomish firefighter recruit Chau Nguyen flakes a hose as other recruits load the hoses onto a fire truck April 19, 2018, at the training facility on S. Machias Rd. in Snohomish. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)
Lawsuit: Everett firefighter sexually harassed numerous recruits

Chau Nguyen resigned earlier this year, long after the first complaint about his behavior at the county’s fire training academy.

NO CAPTION. Logo to accompany news of education.
Stanwood-Camano School Board seeks applicants for vacancy

Ken Christoferson, the district’s longest serving board member, resigned on Dec. 6.

The final 747 is rolled out of the factory on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Final 747 rollout signals end of an era for Boeing, Everett

After a 55-year run, the last of the “Queen of the Skies” emerged from the Everett assembly plant Tuesday evening.

Pilchuck Secret Valley Tree Farm owner Paul Dierck walks through a row of trees on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Christmas trees, a Washington cash crop, get a little more spendy

Christmas tree farms generate about $688,000 each season for Snohomish County farmers. Some are still open for business.

Marysville
Marysville to pay $1M to another former student for alleged sex abuse

The latest settlement marks the earliest known allegations against Kurt Hollstein, who worked in the district until last year.

Most Read