SHELTON, WA — Mason County is nestled in the rural southeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. Like most rural communities, residents are clamoring for better broadband. Since 2000, Mason PUD 3, has been extending its open-access, nondiscriminatory fiber optic network to various regions of its service territory. Besides serving its own facilities, PUD 3’s network reaches over 1,000 businesses, homes, and anchor institutions.
A PUD is a public utility district. Mason PUD 3 serves serves over 34,000 electric customers in Mason County, Washington, as well as running a wholesale fiber optic telecommunications network, which supports the operation of its electricity system.
A recent PUD 3 customer surveys showed that slow speeds, high costs, or unavailable service were frustrating shortcomings for those who live in the more rural areas of Mason County. “PUD staff was happy with the clarity the survey provided,” said Justin Holzgrove, Mason PUD 3 telecommunications and community relations manager. “A large number of county residents wanted PUD fiber connections. We are good at what we do: providing reliable fiber service that retail service providers can use to deliver high quality broadband services.”
“Mason PUD 3 has a confirmed need for better broadband in their area, and a very attractive offer to their subscribers. I am positive it will be a great success, especially with such an experienced partner as NoaNet by their side.” – Bjorn Wannman
Milestone Gigabit Fiberhood Program
In July, 2017 Mason PUD 3 commissioners approved a Fiberhood Program, designed to expand access to PUD 3’s fiber optic network for gigabit speed broadband service. Holzgrove added, “This program is a milestone in the history of PUD 3.”
To save money and improve the effectiveness of network extensions, the PUD turned to the Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), a wholesale only telecommunications provider, for support in demand aggregation. Because NoaNet uses the COS Service Zones platform it offered its use in partnership with COS.
PUD 3’s Fiberhood process identifies potential neighborhoods that are unserved or underserved by broadband providers. Among other factors, expansion of service is based on a guaranteed level of customer commitment to obtain service from the fiber optic network. Cost recovery for the project comes through a monthly “construction adder fee” paid back over 12 years. As a public utility, it is PUD 3’s intent to recover costs, not create a profit.
Demand Aggregation Campaign
“A demand aggregation campaign to secure a commitment for connections was based on two components,” said Holzgrove. “First, we can ensure that we are investing in areas with demand and commitment. Connecting areas with great initial take-rates, means revenue to fund continuous deployment. Second, many residents are clamoring for faster and more reliable Internet connection. Building first, where most people want it and will commit for it, is fair.”
Mason PUD 3 is a founding member of NoaNet. The PUD sought NoaNet’s support in setting up the demand aggregation campaign. “Kitsap PUD, another one of our forming members, has had positive experiences using COS System’s software,” said Angela Bennink, communications and outreach director at NoaNet. “We recently initiated a partnership to broaden NoaNet offerings to include demand aggregation and Open Access network operations. In cooperation with the COS experts we are happy to support Mason PUD 3 with the software and support they need to quickly launch their demand aggregation campaign.”
Originally Published September 20th, 2017
Broadband Communities Magazine