The Port of Whitman County and the Coeur d’Alene Tribe are each getting federal stimulus money to provide fiber optic networks to businesses and residents.
The port’s $9.8 million award is part of a larger statewide stimulus pot of $84 million for broadband projects announced recently by the U.S. Commerce Department.
NoaNet, a consortium of 12 Washington public utility districts and a coordinating agency, will be the designee for the $84 million.
Separate from that project is the Coeur d’Alene tribal award of $12.3 million, set aside as stimulus funds distributed by the U.S. Agriculture Department.
Both projects involve matching dollars.
The Port of Whitman, based in Colfax, will provide $1.7 million in matching funds; the tribe is getting about half the grant total in loans, said tribe spokesman Marc Stewart.
Currently the reservation’s broadband needs are served by a wireless network that reaches a portion of its residents and businesses.
The tribe’s stimulus project means roughly 3,800 unserved and underserved tribal and nontribal households on the reservation will get fiber-optic upgrades, said Valerie Fast Horse, the tribe’s information and technology director. Also benefiting will be businesses in Plummer, Worley, Tensed and DeSmet.
The Port of Whitman’s portion of the broadband stimulus package will expand fiber optic services to rural residents of Whitman County.
Fiber optic lines – the largest-capacity “pipe” for broadband purposes – should play a role in creating more jobs, said Joe Poire, the port’s executive director.
The port’s grant will allow it to build a fiber optic trunk line from Spokane to the Palouse.
A first phase will build a link for Palouse libraries and medical facilities with information databases across the world.
When completed, the result will give researchers, students and rural businesses the same access to information and collaboration that residents in Seattle have, Poire said.