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Poulsbo may be first on last mile

POULSBO — A major telecommunications solution for the peninsula may take its first baby steps right here in Little Norway where it got its fledgling start.

After years of struggling with slow, costly and cumbersome technology, the city council is expected to decide tonight on a company that will supply Poulsbo with a wide-area network (WAN). The finance and administration committee has recommended — and indications are the council agrees — that the best option is to connect to the Kitsap County Public Utilities Department fiber-optic backbone.

The KPUD decided to build the backbone, a link to the Bonneville Power Administration fiber optic network, shortly after the City of Poulsbo started holding meetings with local cities about telecommunication issues in the area. The city has long struggled with outdated technology to communicate with outlying offices and many important papers are still hand delivered. Local Internet service has also been spotty at best, causing problems for both government and private sectors.

“For folks for whom this is their business lifeblood that was just an absurdity for doing business at the end of the 20th Century,” Councilman Ed Stern said. “The ability to have a sound and secure connection to the outside world became very clear.”

Stern alerted the city council when he became aware that other cities were trying to entice Poulsbo businesses to move by offering better Internet services. It became clear that other cities were experiencing the same problems as local meetings soon became so large that Poulsbo couldn’t host them any more.

They quickly became regionally-sponsored events.

Large meeting attendances also swayed the KPUD to reverse an earlier decision and become one of the first public utility districts to draw from BPA’s excess capacity.

Just as the backbone was finalized, coincidentally, the City of Poulsbo began taking bids to build a wide-area network after having researched options since 1998. Out of seven bids from six entities, the PUD’s is the least costly at $870 per month with a $4,000 set up fee. This is compared to the next closest bid from Aubeta Networks at $1,182 per month and a $3,258 set up cost.

Besides cost, the agreement would include a few perks that could sweeten the deal even more.

Because of a legal restriction, PUDs can string fiber optic networks into a jurisdiction, but cannot hook anyone up to it — that must be done by a third party. By choosing the KPUD, Poulsbo would become one of these third parties and would be able to share the cost of monthly access to the backbone by sharing its excess capacity with other government agencies like the library, school district and fire department to name a few. And excess capacity will be something the city would have plenty of.

“Say our need for a WAN is like drinking water and we’ve been thirsty for a while now. Most of the proposals are like a sipping straw and this is like opening a fire hydrant and I mean we’re thirsty but you don’t need to open up a fire hydrant,” Stern said.

Sharing would also mean that the monthly $870 cost would be split between all government agencies hooking up to the system through Poulsbo. Right now the emphasis is getting the city hooked into the system to be able to provide better service to constituents. But, they say, it’s nice to know the possibility could be down the road with a simple nod from the city council.

“I can’t find any reason not to,” commented Councilman Jim Henry.

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