Tag Archives: Opalco

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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Kudos to our Power Company

Posted by Teri

Thank you OPALCO for always being there. Rain, sleet or snow our linemen are out making sure we stay safe, warm and see the light!

Old OPALCO truck door on Orcas Island

Old OPALCO truck door on Orcas Island

Outages here in the islands are not always because we live on an “island” but can be caused by mainland accidents or downed trees in areas that feed the underwater cables that are the power source for the islands.

Snow storms are not common but can also cause an outage. January’s ice and snow storm had the lower mainland in pretty bad shape with 100,000 plus residences facing outages, leaving people stranded in the cold without heat. Orcas saw two power outages that were relatively easy and quick to fix. Our lineman crew is the best, comprised of local boys who have been here most of their lives. They are experienced in being the person sitting in the dark wondering what caused the lights to go out, and asking “should we be cranking up the generator”? And they know most of these community members left in the dark!!  These guys have back up from OPALCO office crew who are working just as hard making sure the crew has hot coffee and food should the weather remain a hazard and it look like it will be an all night date.

Orcas Island Snow Fall 2012

Orcas Island Snow Fall 2012

Personally, I look forward to outages. I get an opportunity to just sit in front of the fire with a good book, put a pot of soup on the wood stove, find the candles and hunker down.   This time, it was the snow that helped put me in the rocking chair instead of a power outage. Islanders are just equipped and look forward to anything Mother Nature throws at us.

Check out OPALCO website http://www.opalco.com   to learn more about our members owned co-op and learn about the many programs that benefit its members.

Looking to enjoy the simple life on beautiful Orcas Island?
Contact T Williams Realty – we’ll help you find your way home.

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