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Washington Counties Plan Infrastructure Swap for Better Internet

Public utility districts in Douglas and Chelan counties plan to exchange miles of fiber cable for both fiber broadband networks to deliver high-speed Internet service to customers at an expected bargain.

(TNS) — Douglas and Chelan County PUDs will exchange miles of fiber cable for both fiber broadband networks to deliver high-speed Internet service to customers at an expected bargain.

The agreement will likely shave down the cost of delivering Internet to customers, according to Douglas County PUD documents.

Douglas PUD commissioners approved the interlocal agreement between the neighboring PUDs at the July 10 board meeting.

"The savings comes from less admin involved and the more efficient use of our networks," wrote Meaghan Vibbert, Douglas PUD spokesperson, in an email. " Chelan uses 383 miles of our dark fiber. We use 108 miles of CCPUD dark fiber, so that nets out to us billing them for 275 miles."

The PUDs on each side of the Columbia River will exchange both "dark fiber," fiber cables not in use, and "lit fiber," in use cables, Vibbert said. With the asset sharing, the PUDs can use each other's existing fiber infrastructure, cutting out the cost of design, material, construction and maintenance of new infrastructure, according to Bob Shane, Chelan PUD's fiber and telecommunications managing director.

"For example, we might use 10 miles of Douglas's fiber and Douglas might use five miles of Chelan's fiber to deliver services," Shane wrote in an email. "When the net cost (rates) difference is computed, the overburden cost is paid by the respective PUD."

The PUDs couldn't provide specific dollar amounts of savings that would get passed on to customers.

The PUDs do not have a numeric value for the savings, wrote Libby Siebens, Chelan PUD communications manager, in an email, but "if the PUDs couldn't share existing infrastructure, it would cost both (PUDs) more to deliver fiber."

"The savings come from not having to build or construct infrastructure that is provided by the respective PUD for the services rendered," Shane wrote. "Chelan PUD maintains network redundancy over two physical paths, one over Chelan's network the other over Douglas's network, without having to incur design, construction, and maintenance cost of additional infrastructure."

More on PUD business:

— Douglas County PUD moves into second phase in hydrogen project

— Chelan County PUD plans for increased electric vehicle use

— Douglas County PUD approves rate change for large cryptocurrency miners

— Chelan PUD is anticipated to provide fiber Internet to 85% of its service area, under no additional costs to customers, by 2026. The fiber expansion is backed by the Power Public Benefit program with $27 million.

Fiber service is available to 88% of Douglas PUD customers; 43% of customers who are serviceable are signed up and 37% of customers use the service, according to Vibbert.

©2023 The Wenatchee World, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.