The Port was chosen for its statewide leadership constructing open-access, dark-fiber-optic internet networks
COLFAX — The Washington Public Ports Association recently honored the Port of Whitman County with its 2021 President’s Port of the Year award.
The award recognizes a public port district member of the association for generating favorable public attention for its activities and positively representing the industry. Membership in the association currently numbers 75 ports in Washington State.
The Port of Whitman County was chosen for its statewide leadership in constructing open-access, dark-fiber-optic internet networks.
“The Port of Whitman is truly a leader in building the state’s broadband infrastructure for the future,” said Jean Ryckman, former WPPA president and current Port of Pasco District 2 Commissioner. Ryckman presented the accolade during WPPA’s annual meeting in Bellevue Friday, December 3.
The Port is currently working to enable gig-speed broadband in five Whitman County communities, Rosalia, Garfield, Oakesdale, Palouse and Tekoa, and extend fiber an additional 41 miles to rural areas. The project, scheduled for completion this month, connects more than 150 businesses and 1,386 homes to broadband infrastructure.
Recently, the Port also received a $1.7 million grant from the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to design and construct a fiber-to-the-premises (FTTX) network around Pine City and Malden. Fires in the fall of 2020 nearly destroyed the towns, ravaging more than 15,000 acres and 80% of homes. As the community continues to rebuild, infrastructure—including broadband—will chart the path for their recovery.
The impacts of the Port’s broadband work extend beyond Whitman County and Eastern Washington. The Port leads Petrichor Broadband, LLC, a municipal corporation formed by six Washington ports in 2020. The other founding members include Port of Kalama, Port of Ridgefield, Port of Skagit County, Port of Bellingham and Port of Pasco. Petrichor Broadband provides consulting and network management services to public agencies seeking to expand broadband infrastructure to previously underserved areas of Washington State.
“Petrichor achieved a profit margin from its inception by filling a critical role assisting other ports, tribes, counties, cities, PUDs, and industrial development zones in expanding broadband access to their communities,” Ryckman said. “These clients really span the state, ranging all the way from Island County to the Kalispel Tribe in Pend Oreille County.”
More information about Petrichor Broadband’s services and a map of clients served in Washington State can be found at petrichorbroadband.com.
Executive Director Joe Poire explained the Port’s history in broadband began in 1998 when the Port, led by the late Commissioner John Love, started lobbying for new state broadband legislation. 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.
“We were successful in 2000, led by Commissioner Love, and here we are 22 years later,” Poire said. “This particular enterprise started out 22 years ago when we couldn’t even get dial-up internet, and the pandemic brings the whole story back around. It’s really been a ride. Getting recognized like this and having everyone partner with us – it’s truly been an honor.”
For more information about the Port’s broadband work, please visit www.portwhitman.com/broadband or www.portwhitman.com/fiber-faqs.
About the Port of Whitman County
The Port of Whitman County is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all citizens of Whitman County through industrial real estate development, preservation of multi-modal transportation, facilitation of economic development and provision of on-water recreational opportunities.