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February 2, 2022

Olympia, WA.  The Washington State Broadband Office (WSBO) has awarded the Washington Independent Telecommunications Association (WITA) $14.8 M to provide new services to more than 1200 underserved and unserved homes and businesses.  This public-private partnership teams WITA, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1915, with two small, family-owned telecommunications companies:  Hood Canal Communications (established in 1934) and Whidbey Telecom (founded in 1908).  Together these entities represent over 300 years of commitment to meeting the telecommunications needs of rural Washington.  

The grant will extend broadband services to residents and businesses in several low-density population pockets of Mason and Island Counties.  Each company will contribute a cash match to their portion of the project resulting in Fiber to the Home and offer broadband internet up to 1,000 Mbps (Gigabit) with synchronous upload and download speeds.  The availability of high-speed internet service will also greatly enhance the capabilities of state and local emergency responders in these areas.

George Henny, Co-CEO of Whidbey Telecom stated, “Washington State and the Federal government are making a once-in-a-generation investment in our nation’s infrastructure and competitiveness.  We are encouraged by these collaborative efforts and the bipartisan support that is critical to ensure that we have access to affordable, reliable, and scalable fiber broadband technologies supporting the economic viability of rural areas today and into the future.”

Whidbey Telecom and Hood Canal Communications have aggressively pursued and received multiple State and Federal grants, both directly and in partnership with public entities, to ensure that even the most rural parts of their service areas have access to gigabit broadband service.  This grant will also help these companies expand beyond their traditional service areas into neighboring areas which are currently unserved.

According to Mike Oblizalo, General Manager and Vice President of Hood Canal Communications, the company is extremely grateful for the partnership with WITA and the WSBO for making these projects possible.

Contact:
Betty Buckley, Executive Director
Washington Independent Telecommunications Association
bettyb@wita-tel.org
509.690.0530


White boom truck with Hood Canal employee standing near front passenger side with white hard hat, yellow safety vest, and a thumbs up.
Hood Canal Communications (HHC) employee gives a thumbs up while posing in front of a white boom truck.

In late October Whidbey Telecom became only the second recipient of a USDA ReConnect grant in the state of Washington.  In addition, USDA Washington State Director for Rural Development Kirk Pearson presented Whidbey Telecom with the Washington State Infrastructure Award of Excellence for their efforts to provide high-speed broadband to their customers.  Whidbey Telecom will use the ReConnect grant to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to connect underserved residents and businesses to high-speed broadband internet in Point Roberts, Washington.

George Henny, Whidbey Telecom Co-CEO was thrilled to receive the award saying “we’re honored to be the recipient of the USDA Award of Excellence, recognizing the Whidbey Telecom commitment to keeping our communities connected.” 

As for the ReConnect grant, George went on to say that “like the South Whidbey fiber construction project, this will be a multi-phase, multi-year endeavor. The USDA ReConnect grant is just a start.  We have a lot of hard work ahead of us to put together a plan to fund and build a fiber broadband network in Point Roberts.”

Picture of Whidbey Telecom receiving the Washington State Infrastructure Award of Excellence.
Pictured, L to R:  Kirk Pearson, USDA Washington State Director for Rural Development
George Henny – Co-CEO Whidbey Telecom
Moanalei McManus – Whidbey Telecom, Regulatory Specialist

The full USDA press release can be found here:  https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2020/10/22/trump-administration-invests-596000-high-speed-broadband-rural