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Broadband ship comes in for Port of Poulsbo

POULSBO — This month, the Port of Poulsbo will go high-tech when it hooks up to its own wireless broadband Internet system.

And the best part, said port staff, is that tenants and guests can come along for the ride.

Earlier this year, the port began looking into options for Internet service providers. Its current provider was doing a good job, but staff recognized that they needed something much faster than the standard dial up the port office’s three computers were using.

“We do not advocate our employees being on the Internet all day but our business has gone to Internet-based in recent years,” Port Manager Ed Erhardt explained.

The port researched several options, including the cost of an agreement with the Kitsap Public Utilities department like the one the City of Poulsbo has for its new Wide Area Network. Most options were too expensive for the small needs of the port.

But the proposal from Seattle-based BroadbandXpress changed all that.

Founder Kevin Keating contacted Erhardt asking if he could give staff a demonstration of his system, which caters to marinas and resorts. Keating said he decided to call on Poulsbo when one of his business associates who had visited during last year’s Trawler Fest mentioned how great it would be to have Internet hook ups available at the local marina.

“We thought it was phenomenal. It was exactly what we were looking for,” Erhardt said of his first view of the system.

The Port of Poulsbo is one of about 20 ports and marinas in Washington and British Columbia to connect to the BroadbandXpress system, including Anacortes, Everett, Vancouver Island, Friday Harbor, Roche Harbor, Nanaimo and Elliott Bay.

Besides providing port staff with a wireless connection, the recently inked five-year deal with BroadbandXpress also gives all Poulsbo Marina tenants, including live-aboards, the opportunity to hook up to the system.

Service fees range from $395 per year to $39.95 per month and even $6.95 per day, which means that even short-term guests to the port can use the service. Erhardt said he liked the idea of a daily user fee option because it means visitors can keep up with their business affairs, or just check their e-mail or surf the net, while they’re away from home. The port will have two loaner laptops available for guests on a rental basis.

“This adds one more thing to the Port of Poulsbo that makes it unique. It’s one more service we can offer our customers,” Erhardt commented. “The few people that I’ve talked to on the docks have said, ‘Boy, that would be great.’”

The port will only make a profit from rental charges, not from the system or hook ups. As a public entity, Erhardt said the port’s only role in the agreement is to make sure tenants and guest are aware the service is available, not to market it.

While Port of Poulsbo staff are still being trained in the new technology, Erhardt said he sees a lot of potential for cost savings and better customer service through the system. For example, the new probes in the marina’s fuel dock are accessed through the Internet and staff hope eventually to make ordering fuel a completely automated system. Other options are a new web page that may include things like an online reservations system and billing via e-mail.

“There’s a lot of possibilities,” Erhardt said

Sidebar:

For more information about BroadbandXpress

(206) 428-1000

www.bbxpress.net

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