The first of the broadband "last miles,"
or at least the "next mile," could be in place by the end of
winter in Poulsbo. Bainbridge Island might not be far behind.
The Poulsbo City Council is expected to consider signing an
agreement with the Kitsap Public Utilities District this month
that would connect city offices using a fiber-optic wide area
The benefit is higher-speed Internet access, which could be
significant, especially to those who send large documents
Poulsbo would be the first Kitsap County government to jump
on the broadband wagon since KPUD finished installing an
82-mile backbone through Kitsap County in July.
Connecting a backbone to residents and businesses is called
the "last mile" in the industry. Whether that ends up
happening through a private reseller or a government acting as
a reseller is undecided.
But Poulsbo currently is surveying junior taxing districts
and other entities to measure the interest in broadband.
"Poulsbo is implementing an incremental program very much
like dropping a pebble in a pond," said Ed Stern, Poulsbo city
councilman and chair of the Kitsap Regional Telecommunications
Committee. "And then we study and watch the ripples."
The Kitsap backbone might launch a ripple of its own. The
wiring completed in July did not include Bainbridge Island,
but could soon.
City Councilwoman Deborah Vann said KPUD plans to get
broadband to the island in the spring. In the meantime the
city and the Bainbridge School District are looking at wiring
the schools and government buildings.
"We think the city and the school district combined,
because of what we spend on our T-1 lines, will still be
saving money by going with broadband," she said.
Vann said the convenience of broadband is attractive. She
said transmission of an 80-page document that today might take
several hours could be done within a few minutes using
She said she hopes the line in Bainbridge, in addition to
connecting the schools, would run along Madison Avenue and
Winslow Way, the island's major business district.
Bainbridge City Councilman Bill Knobloch said that line
likely would make it less expensive for Winslow businesses to
access the technology even if the city did nothing beyond
hooking itself up.
"The city is being selfish," he said. "But in being selfish
we provide a right-of-way for local business."
How residents and businesses take advantage of the
technology still is undecided in both cities.
Vann said neighborhoods could create local utility
districts or local improvement districts. The costs certainly
will play a major deciding factor. The city's role, she said,
probably will be in educating people how they can get signed
The Bainbridge Island Citizens Technology Advisory
Committee met Friday with Scott Snyder of the law firm Ogden
Murphy Wallace to discuss some of the financial and legal
Snyder said Kitsap County might be a good candidate for
grant money because of broadband's security benefits compared
to wireless telecommunication.
Snyder said money recently became available under the new
federal Department of Homeland Security, though rules for
getting the money are still unclear.
As home to Naval Submarine Base Bangor and Puget Sound
Naval Shipyard, Kitsap County "would be a natural" for such
funds, Snyder said.
The lack of history or stability in the industry makes it
difficult for any government to know how broadband will move
beyond city halls.
Telecommunication companies are in crisis financially
because of the economy, Stern said. Laws and regulations
regarding who can sell the technology also are unclear.
"We're in a playing field that's in total flux," he said.
Perhaps for that reason alone, the steps cities are going
through now might appear to some to be extremely calculated.
Bainbridge, said Vann, is perfectly willing to let Poulsbo
take the lead on this issue.
And Poulsbo, even though it could be the first West Sound
city to embrace the technology, is going slowly.
"We do things methodically and exhaustively," said Stern.
"We're very much akin to the middle child in a large family.
We're learning from where others have gone. Our city council
is only taking the smallest and surest of steps."
Reach reporter Steven Gardner at (360) 779-3131 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org