Excitement is building for the rollout of fiber optic internet in Anacortes.
At the Fiber Network Gala on Thursday, Oct. 3, the public had the chance to learn more about the fiber network, including how exactly it is installed and when the network will be coming to their neighborhoods.
Anacortes Municipal Broadband Business Manager Jim Lemberg said the latter is what most people want to know.
“Typically when somebody comes up to me they ask me ‘when are you going to get to my neighborhood?’” Lemberg said. “Almost exclusively that question.”
The answer to that question is a little bit complicated. While there has been steady progress in installing the network, there are still speed bumps along the way, Lemberg said.
“We anticipate having the entire network deployed by approximately late 2023,” said Lemberg.
Right now, the focus is on getting service to the three pilot areas of town: the central business district, Old Town and the M Avenue area. After that, it’s time to start thinking about dividing up and scheduling service for other neighborhoods, Lemberg said.
Lemberg said it looks like service for the central business district will end up starting in early November.
For each step of the process, such as sourcing materials, the city is required to undergo a procurement cycle before making any purchases.
“All of that takes time,” Lemberg said. The initial design for the Old Town and M Avenue area is completed, but details like submitting requests to attach fiber optic cables to PSE’s existing utility poles still need to be filed, a process which can take anywhere from weeks to months to hear back from PSE, Lemberg said.
For Vicky Stables, fiber optics can’t come soon enough. Stables has a house near completion in the Old Town area and said she’s hoping to deal with outside internet providers as little as possible.
“(The network) is a vastly superior alternative for us,” she said. Stables uses the internet to stream TV and movies since she stopped her cable services years ago and also relies on the internet to manage investments, she said.
Terry Nemeth, public works supervisor for the water department, manned a table with samples of the materials used to install the fiber optics in the water lines, a process that is nearly complete after about a year of labor.
To assuage concern, Nemeth said there have been 56 water samples taken during installation, and all came back free from bacteria. He also showed the protective barriers between the fiber cords and the water.
“It’s basically a waterline in a waterline,” he said. Even if the lines were exposed, though, it wouldn’t do anything, he said.
Elsewhere at the gala were tables with information about telemedicine, cutting the cable cord and VR technology.