Port of Camas-Washougal considers partnerships to provide internet

Port of Camas-Washougal officials know that obtaining reliable high-speed Internet service is a problem for many local residents and businesses.

“The community tells us we have specific needs, not just for the economic development that we really want to promote,” Port Commissioner Cassi Marshall said recently, adding that the region’s need for reliable internet service is not only increased with the number of people. who have relied on their home internet for everything from work to healthcare to distance education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Jan. 19, harbor commissioners heard from Petrichor Broadband representatives explaining how their eastern Washington-based technology company could identify areas in eastern Clark County that lacked high-speed internet access. .

Petrichor representatives Kara Riebold and Joe Poire said they could help area officials explore public-private partnerships and bring urban services and rates to the greater Camas-Washougal area.

“The port is interested in working with other local jurisdictions – Clark County, Clark Public Utilities and the towns of Camas and Washougal,” said port general manager David Ripp. “At the moment the port does not intend to carry out a project, but we will see how we can connect our local providers with (Petrichor Broadband).”

Petrichor — a public company formed in 2020 by the Ports of Kalama, Ridgefield, Bellingham, Pasco, Whitman County and Skagit County — provides broadband network consulting and management services to public agencies in Washington, including others ports, tribes, counties, cities, public utility districts and industrial development areas.

Petrichor also advocates for legislation that promotes open-access, public dark fiber infrastructure for the private sector to sell services.

“We are working with all the different entities that are interested in a dark fiber model or are looking for partnerships to bring broadband to their jurisdictions,” Riebold said.

Petrichor’s model has already had success across Washington. The company said it helped create 28 private sector partnerships, managed 435 miles of fiber and better served nearly 62,000 Washingtonians with reliable high-speed internet.

“While you live a short distance from the I-5 corridor and the Vancouver market, there’s a big disparity between the entry-level services of a gig on a special offer for $49 a month and the services just 20, 30, 40 miles away,” Poire said. “We would be looking at ways to fill those gaps with infrastructure.”