Anacortes broadband

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

ANACORTES — More than 500 are connected to city-owned internet in Anacortes, a milestone for the city’s fiber optic internet utility.

The network, called Access Anacortes Fiber Internet, has 524 customers, including 437 residences and 87 businesses. That’s up from nine customers last March, city Administrative Services Director Emily Schuh told the Anacortes City Council on Tuesday night.

“We are so excited,” she said in an interview on Wednesday. “It feels like we have a really good system in place. We know how to operate the network, build the network, and address concerns that come up.”

An additional 203 have placed orders for internet in the network’s current service area. Schuh said the city expects to get those customers on to the network by the end of March.

She said fiber technicians are able to complete between three and six in-home installations per day, depending on the type of installation.

Anacortes has been planning the public broadband network for years with the goal to provide high-speed, affordable and reliable fiber internet.

The cost for residential service is $39 a month for 100 megabit per second (Mbps), and $69 a month for 1 gigabit per second (Gbps). Commercial customers pay $89 for 100 Mbps, or $149 a month for 1 Gbps.

Schuh said the city has spent about $3 million to make fiber connections available to 2,273 premises so far.

The city is aiming to achieve a 35% market share to make the network self-sustaining, and is on track to meet that goal.

Out of the 2,273 possible customers, 715 have ordered fiber internet, a market share of about 31%, according to Schuh’s presentation to the City Council.

Schuh said the network is generating about $36,000 in revenue a month.

This year, the city plans to expand the network west of the Anacortes Airport and pass by an additional 2,300 properties.

The City Council approved Tuesday night a three-year $4.5 million line of credit with Savi Bank to finance the expansion of the network.

Council member Bruce McDougall said if the city’s network reaches 800 customers, monthly revenue would be more than double to cover monthly interest payments of $16,000 on the line of credit.

In 2022, the network will be expanded from A Avenue east to city limits and pass by an additional 1,815 properties, according to Schuh’s presentation.

Schuh said the city applied for a $2.5 million grant from the Economic Development Administration’s Public Works and Economic Adjustment program to help cover the cost of the 2022 buildout.

She said this portion of the network is eligible for the federal grant because it will pass by areas with commercial development.

When complete, the network will pass by a total of 7,600 Anacortes properties.

The city is working on several special projects, including extending fiber to a Port of Anacortes tenant off Bartholomew Road and setting up a connection for the Anacortes Senior Activity Center, according to Schuh’s presentation.

The city is also leasing dark fiber — which is excess, unused fiber cables — to Rock Island Communications for health services.

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

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