Anacortes broadband

Fiber equipment at the Anacortes Public Library for the city’s municipal broadband network in April 2019.

ANACORTES — The Anacortes City Council unanimously awarded a $5.1 million contract Monday to Robinson Brothers Construction to extend the city’s fiber internet backbone to the west end of the city.

The expansion will make high-speed internet available to 2,302 residences west of Anacopper Mine Road, according a presentation by city staff.

City Administrative Services Director Emily Schuh said 476 customers in the city’s west end — about 20% of total possible customers — have pre-ordered Access Anacortes Fiber Internet.

“The sooner we can get that network backbone and the structure built, then we can follow up and do the actual installation to the customer,” she said.

As of April 21, the city’s network had 698 customers and generates $46,423 in monthly revenue, according to the city’s presentation.

The city aims to extend the network citywide and make access available to 7,618 premises by 2024.

In January, the City Council approved a three-year $4.5 million line of credit to finance fiber expansion to the west side of the city.

Schuh said bringing fiber to west-end homes will require the city to transition from aerial to mostly underground installations, a more expensive method. She said the west side will be the most expensive area to which the city will provide service.

The city initially budgeted $3.1 million in 2018 to build and operate the first three pilot areas of the network.

Schuh said the city expected a higher price tag for the westside backbone expansion.

“We are basically in line with original cost estimates, we are within about 5% to 10%,” Council member Bruce McDougall said.

In 2022, the city plans to continue the network along A Avenue east to city limits. The city has secured a $2.25 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to pay for construction.

The final phase of construction in 2023 will extend fiber between A Avenue and Anacopper Mine Road. The city is seeking grant funding for this section.

The city has stated that to break even it needs at least 35% of possible customers to sign up for internet service. In its current service areas, 807 out of 2,273 have signed up for service, a rate of about 36%, according to the city’s presentation. The rate is nearly 50% in some neighborhoods.

“We are getting more sign-ups than we have originally targeted,” Council member Ryan Walters said.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the revenue generated by the city's fiber internet network. The network generates $46,423 in monthly revenue.

— Reporter Jacqueline Allison: jallison@skagitpublishing.com, 360-416-2145, Twitter: @Jacqueline_SVH

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