Fiber buildout gets to Crescent Bar, Beverly

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EPHRATA — Grant County PUD’s fiber network has been extended to George and is almost finished in Crescent Bar. Russ Brethower, who oversees the fiber program, gave a mid-year report to commissioners at the regular meeting Tuesday.

Last year commissioners decided to add more money to the buildout project, with the goal of finishing it in five years. Commissioners decided to allocate $12.5 million for 2019, in addition to about $2.7 to $3 million allocated, but not spent, in 2018.

Commissioners decided to allocate enough money, estimated at about $12.5 million per year for 2020-23, to finish the project.

The plan for 2019 included also included fiber reaching Beverly and Schwana, Coulee City, Sunland Estates near Quincy, Blue Lake and the surrounding area, the Ancient Lakes and surrounding area. The area along Patton Boulevard, McConihe Road and Neppel, Kittleson Road and the extension along Wheeler Road also were in the plans for 2019.

Currently fiber construction is underway in Beverly and Schwana, as well as Sunland. Design and engineering work has started for the remaining locations.

Customers in Coulee City, Beverly and Schwana and the Blue Lake area should be able to tap into the fiber network by September, Brethower said. Service should be available around the Ancient Lakes by the end of October, and in the remaining areas by the end of the year.

State law prohibits the PUD from providing retail service to customers. Internet service companies actually serve the retail customers.

The goal is to get 2,575 additional customers by year’s end. Brethower said the PUD is on pace to hit the goal.

Utility district crews are so busy there’s a backlog of customers waiting to tap in, Brethower said. “That’s a good problem,” said commissioner Tom Flint.

About 56.5 percent of PUD customers who have access to the fiber are hooked up to it, Brethower said. As of mid-year, the “take rate” is about 56.36 percent of potential customers. The highest take rate is in Mattawa, where 81.89 percent of potential customers have signed up. The lowest is Warden, with 31.97 percent of potential customers signed up.

The PUD’s website has a map showing where fiber is available and where it’s being built.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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