ANACORTES — As the city of Anacortes expands it high-speed fiber internet network, state and federal funds may help get the city wired up sooner, staff said in a presentation to the Anacortes City Council.
The city’s network, Access Anacortes Fiber Internet, has 830 customers in service across four service areas, City Administrative Services Director Emily Schuh said during Monday’s meeting.
Construction is underway to bring fiber to the city’s west end, which will make internet available to another 2,300 more premises. Schuh said the city has received 619 pre-orders for service and expects to begin fiber installations this fall.
The city had already approved an up to $4.5 million line of credit with SaviBank to pay for the $6 million west-end expansion but is also exploring other funding opportunities.
The city has applied for American Rescue Plan Act funds, distributed through the Washington State Broadband Office, Schuh said. The city requested about $9.8 million for the west-end expansion and for fiber installations in Guemes View (the area off Highway 20 between downtown Anacortes and the west side).
She said the Guemes View expansion, which would extend fiber to another 875 premises, could begin a year early in 2022 if the city secures grants.
In 2022, the city also plans to connect homes in the area east of A Avenue and fill in gaps around its current service areas. A total of 1,815 connections are possible.
The plan is to use a $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The agency has guaranteed access to these funds, and the city is finalizing application requirements, Schuh said.
With more opportunities for broadband funding coming up, the city may expand its network even farther.
Schuh said the $1 trillion federal infrastructure bill, under negotiations, is set to include $65 billion or more for broadband infrastructure nationally and possibly $1 billion for Washington.
“That is good news for us as we continue to seek out ways to be able to continue to expand our network and possibly even go outside the city at some point,” she said.
Additional grant funds would allow the city to bring fiber to South Fidalgo Bay (the city’s urban growth area along Highway 20 and March’s Point) and Burrows Bay, making possible another 833 connections.
With funding, these two projects could be completed in 2022, Schuh said.
In a phone call Tuesday, Schuh clarified that any expansion of the network outside city limits, such as Burrows Bay, would need to be financed by outside funding sources, not by city taxpayers.