Port of Columbia staff, along with private partner Columbia iConnect, made a presentation to the Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) on Thursday, July 14 in Olympia and left with a $2 million award! Funds will be used to construct a fiber network throughout the entire City of Dayton as well as adjacent areas in the county, allowing 1,287 businesses and households access to affordable, reliable highspeed internet.
The Port will not be providing internet service to customers. The system will be what’s called an open access network, meaning any interested internet service provider that is willing to invest in equipment can offer fiber internet service to the premises by leasing strands of the Port’s fiber infrastructure. Basically, the Port builds the “road,” and the private sector “drives” on it to deliver service to customers.
The Port provided information and a partnership invitation to all 5 existing service providers prior to applying for funds, and received a response from 4 of them. We now have signed contingency agreements with 3 companies – Columbia iConnect, PocketiNet, and Emerge by Inland Cellular – to lease fiber from the Port and deliver internet service to customers. We are grateful for their willingness to join us in this public/private partnership.
The Port of Garfield recently completed the same type of fiber infrastructure project in Pomeroy, and customers there are receiving 1 gigabyte of service for $70 per month! 50% of the premises in their project area have already chosen to use this new service offered by private companies.
Acceptance of the $2 million grant is contingent upon the community providing $500,000 in matching funds. The Port applied for and received $20,000 from the Sherwood Trust, $15,000 from the Warren Community Fund, and $13,500 from the Dayton Columbia County Fund to use as matching funds, and has pledged $20,000 from their 2021 budget for the project as well. Columbia County and the City of Dayton will be asked to provide the remainder of the required funds. The local funds required are a small investment that can benefit thousands of residents in our community. While some will view this as a waste of taxpayer dollars, we view this as successfully pulling $2 million of the hard-earned tax dollars we sent to the federal government back to our community for the benefit of our businesses and citizens and for the future sustainability of our town.