Monthly Archives: February 2013

A Few Fast Facts About OPALCO’s Broadband Initiative

Teri WilliamsBy Teri Williams

You may have noticed that Orcas Power and Light Company has released its plan to deliver broadband and phone services to 90 percent of San Juan County. This is exciting and I applaud OPALCO for its efforts to bring San Juan County into the 21st Century.

OPALCO is studying how greater access to broadband (high-speed internet) would benefit members. Here are a few fast facts:

OPALCO Broadband Coverage Map

This map is a preliminary snap-shot of potential broadband coverage based on a radio frequency study. Field studies are underway to test and confirm coverage, determine pole locations and actual system design.

#1: OPALCO’s proposal is to build a fiber and wireless infrastructure to bring connectivity for our electrical system, public safety, broadband and the potential of better cell phone coverage.

#2: For a total of $90 per month – about what you’re paying now to CenturyLink – you would get:

  • Reliable fast internet (10M minimum rural, 50M+ in towns) with capability for the future
  • Unlimited use long distance national phone using your current phone number and phone
  • Wifi access in population centers, on the interisland ferries and at ferry landings

#3: The cost to build this infrastructure is $34 million – to be paid for through a low-interest loan with USDA Rural Utility Service. All coop members (each household or business) will be asked to pay $15/month (included in the $90/month total) to support the infrastructure capital expense. The remaining $75/month is a subscriber fee charged to those who want broadband services.

#4: To make the project work financially, at least half of OPALCO’s members must pre-subscribe for broadband services with a $90 refundable deposit. There will be a form on the  OPALCO website for members to indicate their support of (or their opposition to)  the project. OPALCO has  begun a lengthy member engagement effort to explain the plan, hear from members and measure their commitment to the project.

#5: For members who would struggle to pay the additional $15 cooperative infrastructure fee, OPALCO is creating a PAL Program – a Shared Infrastructure fund. In addition, members will be given a chance to opt out of the $15 fee if they respectfully refuse. There will be a true-up policy if those members later want to opt back in.

#6: This infrastructure is a long-term investment in the future health and sustainability of our communities. The system is a solution for key quality of life issues including public safety, education, electric system upgrades, telemedicine and economic development.

To learn more, click here: OPALCO Broadband Initiative.

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