The Port of Whitman County has long recognized that high-speed internet service is essential for our rural communities to prosper. Reliable broadband allows families and businesses to enjoy our small-town amenities here on the Palouse, while competing in an increasingly connected global market.
To that end, we’ve installed hundreds of miles of dark fiber optic cable since 2000.
In the mid-1990s, our Port Commission and staff dreamt of connecting all of Whitman County to high bandwidth internet access. Yet, federal boundary and reimbursement rules prevented the county’s five telecommunications companies at the time from offering modern services. In addition, the Port of Whitman County lacked the legal authority to build the infrastructure itself. Seeing no difference between investing in transportation and investing in broadband infrastructure for economic development, the Port began lobbying for new state broadband legislation in 1998.
Success came two years later with the state’s “Bridging the Digital Divide” project. In 2000, Substitute Senate Bill 6675 was signed into law. The landmark bill authorized ports and public utility districts to build broadband infrastructure and offer wholesale telecommunications services. Enacted, it became RCW 53.08.370.
The Commission immediately amended its Comprehensive Plan, stating its intention to carry out its newfound broadband authority.
Since then, the Port has built out over 300 miles of dark fiber in a network ranging from the City of Spokane in the north to the City of Clarkston in the south, facilitating better prices and services for port tenants and businesses across Whitman County.
Today, the Port continues to advocate for legislation that will enhance telecommunications services across our county and state. In 2020, we joined five other ports in Washington state in forming Petrichor Broadband. Read more at www.portwhitman.com/petrichor.
The Port of Whitman County’s broadband work generates $31.5 million in output and supports 125 jobs annually, including multiplier effects.