Darrington nonprofit working to offer internet access

DARRINGTON — A new group here aims to offer affordable internet in a rural area the founder says has been underserved by big-name providers.

The Darrington Internet Users Association got its nonprofit designation earlier this month and recently voted in a five-person board of directors. They hope to work with larger companies that would let the group connect to existing infrastructure, such as fiber optic cables. The details have not been finalized, and service isn’t in place yet. The goal is to offer new internet options within a year.

The project started when Jacob Kukuk, 28, moved from Arlington to the Swede Heaven neighborhood near Oso and struggled to find reliable internet service. His background is in technology and software. He began talking to neighbors about their internet frustrations, he said.

“We thought rather than have it owned by a large corporation, why don’t we make the people who are going to use it the owners of the internet service provider?” he said.

So far, 21 people have paid $150 to become shareholders, he said. They voted in a governing board Aug. 25.

The plan is to charge different monthly rates for residential users, businesses or low-income households.

“We’re going beyond what a private carrier would provide and we’re taking a social approach,” Kukuk said.

He compares internet carriers to a spiderweb, a vast, interconnected network of threads linked to the world wide web. A major provider such as Google, Frontier or AT&T may let smaller providers, such as the Darrington Internet Users Association, pay to add or use a thread on their network in order to bring service to a new area, especially when the smaller provider doesn’t pose much competition, Kukuk said.

The plan is to work with a large provider that can offer a designated fiber optic cable connecting from Seattle to Arlington and then to towers near Darrington, where the signal could be picked up through units mounted to the sides of homes. Kukuk estimates that would cost about $200,000. The group is seeking grants, donations and shareholders who would vote on a formal agreement that lays out what level of service is to be provided to customers.

The vision is to offer internet from Arlington Heights through Oso and Darrington, then out toward the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Reservation.

More information is available online at diua.org.

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439; kbray@heraldnet.com.

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