The past few days have felt like legislative session.  Dan Coyne and I have talked with dozens of legislators as we continue to work on securing an extension of the state universal communications fund.  There will be two pieces of legislation introduced in January, either of which will accomplish our goal.  The first is the Governor’s Broadband bill which will include several sections including a five year extension of the state fund.  The second bill will be introduced at our request and will contain a ten year extension of the fund.  Rep. Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver) has agreed to sponsor this bill and Rep. Norma Smith (R – Camano Island) will be the first co-sponsor.  These first two sponsors are important because they establish that we have bi-partisan support for our effort and also support from veteran legislators.  Both representatives are on the House committee through which our bill will have to pass and both have agreed to help us move the bill forward.  There are several steps in this process, each with a  deadline.  Here’s a link to a website that gives more information if you would like to learn a bit more about this process.

Our next steps include getting a sponsor for our bill in the Senate and adding more names to the list of bill sponsors.  The more names the better.  We’ll also be working on handouts for each company to share with their local representatives, in person if at all possible.


Legislative session begins on January 14th and we’ll be ready.  Shellie Burnham will be setting up meetings for those of you who can join us in Olympia, as the group from Consolidated Communications did last year.


Welcome to a fresh new look for the WITA website with pictures and content courtesy of our members.  We’ve also changed up some features to put more emphasis on our Premier Associate Members including more banner advertising and an opportunity for those members to get in front of our phone company members with news about what’s happening at their companies.  This month we’re featuring a new staff person at one of our oldest Premier Members, Unitel. We hope you enjoy this new look for WITA and hope that you’ll help our content stay fresh by sending us stories about new projects, services and staff at your company.


UNITEL welcomes Matt Gilbert as Risk Advisor

UNITEL Insurance recently welcomed Matt Gilbert to the sales team as a Risk Advisor. Gilbert joined the UNITEL division of UNICO Group focusing on telecommunication services. UNICO is a full-service insurance agency with services ranging from telecommunications, workers’ comp, employee benefits to personal insurance, financial planning, human resources solutions and wellness.

“I have spent the last 12 years in the industry understanding people, finding custom solutions and aligning myself into a position to listen,” said Matt Gilbert. “My approach to servicing our clients is to listen to the evolving market, recent issues, industry challenges to provide solutions that best fit their needs.”

UNITEL has been providing risk solutions to the telecommunications industry since 2004 and now serves over 600 companies across the country.  “We are excited to expand our knowledge and geographic reach. We are thrilled to have Matt join our team,” said Ric Stoakes, EVP of UNITEL. “Matt has been in the telecommunications industry for a long time and his knowledge and passion are a tremendous asset for our clients as well as for our growing team.”

Gilbert is on the Board for WTA and serves as the Chairman of the Associate Member Committee. He is also involved with NTCA with their associate members advisory council.

Matt grew up in SW Michigan and graduated from Grand Valley State University. Currently, he and his wife, Ashleigh, reside in Virginia with their two children.

National News 

It turns out that the article Ryan Blethen wrote about our members made it into US News and World Reports.  Way to go WhidbeyTel and Pioneer!  Many thanks also to Eric Trump who spent a great deal of time with Ryan as well.  Check out the article here: