PORT TOWNSEND — The Public Utility District has launched a survey on access to, and use of, the internet in East Jefferson County.
The survey, presented in collaboration with Team Jefferson EDC, is available on the Jefferson County PUD’s website at https://www.jeff
pud.org/broadband/survey/ until June 30.
The survey has two tracks: one for residential customers and one for commercial customers. A button for each is available on the webpage.
Commercial customers include businesses, institutions, nonprofits, and government agencies.
Residential customers include any residential household — either single or multi- family dwellings — as well as customers with home-based businesses.
“We need businesses from all across the county to take the survey, especially in the less populated areas,” said Will O’Donnell, PUD communications manager.
“Part of the goal of the survey is to gather up information that we can use for future grant applications. And many of those grants are focused on economic development, so getting internet data from businesses of all types is critical.”
The survey has a couple of objectives, O’Donnell added.
“We want to know who has internet and who doesn’t, as well as who has good internet and who doesn’t. The survey has a speed test built into it, and the results will be collated and mapped, and we’ll use the maps to help decide where we might build out fiber in the future.”
To get the most accurate speed test result, O’Donnell recommended that participants take the survey on a computer directly plugged into the internet via Ethernet cable — as opposed to Wi-Fi.
“Only one response per business or home, please,” O’Donnell said.
Brian Kuh, executive director of Team Jefferson EDC, urged everyone to take the survey, even those without internet at their homes or businesses.
“We need to hear from folks who don’t have internet just as much as we need to hear from those that do,” he said.
Expanding access to reliable, high-speed, broadband internet is key to Jefferson County’s economy and quality of life, Kuh said.
PUD customers without internet access will receive a paper survey with their May power bill that they can fill out and return with their bill payment.
Paper surveys also can be dropped off at the PUD’s customer service office at Four Corners Road.
“Though we discourage it for customers with home internet, customers without it at home can take the residential survey at the library, a friend’s home or even on a smartphone,” O’Donnell said.
“When you indicate on the survey that you don’t not have internet access at home, it limits the number of questions asked to match the paper survey.”
Acting General Manager Kevin Streett, who has led much of the PUD’s fiber installation, said that though the PUD is studying models for expansion, it has limits on what it can provide.
“The PUD can build fiber, but we can’t directly connect our customers to it,” Streett said.
“Any customer who wants to connect to PUD fiber needs to go through an ISP (internet service provider). That’s state law for PUDs.”
The internet survey is part of Jefferson County PUD’s broadband strategic planning process, O’Donnell said.
The PUD received funding from the state Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to develop the plan. Magellan Advisors — a telecommunications consulting firm specializing in broadband infrastructure design and deployment for counties, cities, and utilities across the nation — was hired in January to assist with the planning process.
The planning process is expected to extend into August, with a final draft delivered to PUD commissioners in the fall.