The federal government is pouring millions of dollars into to Mason County for the improvement of broadband internet.
On Wednesday, USDA Rural Development Washington State Director Kirk Pearson announced that the department of agriculture has invested $2.4 million in a high-speed broadband infrastructure project that will create or improve internet access for about 250 households and home-based businesses in rural Mason County. The funding stems from USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program.
“Under the leadership of President Trump and Agriculture Secretary Perdue, USDA recognizes that this is the task of our generation: to ensure that all rural Americans have the same access to affordable, high-speed broadband as their urban and suburban counterparts,” Pearson said. “The ReConnect Pilot Program is helping to satisfy our mandate to improve the quality of life of all rural residents by improving their access to education, health care and economic opportunity, because when rural America thrives, all of America thrives.”
Mason PUD 3 will spend the $2.4 million in funding to supply high-speed broadband to the Grapeview community. Known as the Three Fingers Rural Broadband Fiber Project, it will provide middle-mile and last-mile fiber-optic service to each premises located within the targeted areas.
Mason PUD 3 spokesman Joel Myer says his employer is the first to apply for and receive grant funding from the USDA ReConnect program in Washington state. Myer says he hopes other PUDs across the state follow suit.
“PUD 3 is grateful for the support we received from the staff at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help with our application, and funding for the extension high-speed internet to citizens in the Three-Fingers area of Grapeview,” said Tom Farmer, Mason PUD 3 commission chair. “They have no access to broadband, and the prospect of getting it was very poor. This federal-local government partnership will make it a reality.”
“Over the past decade, PUD 3 staff received countless phone calls, emails, and messages from those in the Three-Fingers area who do not have access to high-speed broadband and no reliable cell coverage,” said Justin Holzgrove, PUD 3 telecommunications and community relations manager. “Cost and underground service challenges have been barriers for this area. Taking a solutions-oriented approach, we found that the ReConnect program will bridge the funding gap, making it economically feasible for PUD 3 to extend its fiber network to this community.”
“For over 80 years, Mason PUD 3 has been building infrastructure to stand the test of time, all for the benefit of our customers,” said Annette Creekpaum, Mason PUD 3 manager. “This grant would not be possible without the outstanding maintenance of our system by PUD 3 employees and award-winning financial management. I see this as recognition that our employees truly reflect our mission of always providing safe, reliable, economical service, 24/7.”
“Connecting rural communities to high-speed internet can be a vital tool in the effort to create more economic opportunities for more people in our region. I supported this grant because broadband can lead to new jobs and businesses, empower students by placing new information at their fingertips, and help rural communities get in on the economic growth we’re seeing that’s been largely concentrated in America’s cities,” said U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, who provided a support letter as part of the application process. “Mason PUD 3 has been hard at work to expand high-speed broadband to our region, and it’s exciting to see them receive a grant through the Broadband ReConnect Program to get networks up to speed to better serve our kids, our businesses, and our everyday lives!”