Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers announced a new effort to expand access to high-quality broadband. With funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), Snohomish County will initiate a comprehensive study to identify gaps in high-quality broadband access for county households. The study will specifically examine and map gaps in broadband infrastructure, speed and affordability to ensure programmatic solutions address a range of access challenges with a focus on understanding the least served in terms of access and affordability.
“Lack of access to affordable, high-quality broadband poses a serious risk to the health and well-being of our residents, workers and businesses. Closing the access gaps will have economic, educational, health and services for communities in Snohomish County,” said Executive Somers. “By mapping existing broadband gaps, we can ensure that our future investments are made quickly and fairly. I appreciate the partnership with the Snohomish County Council and our Broadband Action Team, who lead our efforts to expand high-quality broadband access across the county.
“Our Broadband Action Team’s goal is to expand high-quality Internet access to all areas of Snohomish County. We have already seen early success in securing state grant funds, and this local investment will help us move closer to our goal,” said Council Member Nate Nehring (District 1).
“The Broadband Action Team has already had success, filling those gaps will help us all here in Snohomish County,” said Council Member Sam Low (District 5).
Snohomish County issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify a partner entity to conduct the study. The partner will identify opportunities that will help develop an implementation plan for high-quality broadband expansion that incorporates the following elements:
- Map of existing public and private broadband infrastructure in Snohomish County;
- Map of broadband speeds throughout Snohomish County, including provided speeds broken down by provider, and an identification of areas where infrastructure does not meet current and/or projected population growth demand;
- Needs assessment to map unserved and underserved areas in the county, including identification of areas and households with limited or no problem access and speed of service, as well as identification of households, populations and areas with affordability barriers that limit or prevent broadband access;
- Review of agencies with well-performing broadband networks, including a review of economic benefits, additional sources of funding beyond ARPA, and different types of technology models; and
- Coordinate with broadband provider as well as local broadband program managers to determine best practices for implementation and expansion of access.
Closing the broadband access gap is a top priority for Snohomish County. Executive Somers proposed and Snohomish County Council allocated $5 million from the county’s ARPA funds for broadband expansion efforts. Additionally, earlier in 2022, Snohomish County received a $16.7 million grant from Washington State to expand broadband access on the SR-530 corridor.
Interested entities can find the RFP here, and have until September 1, 2022 to submit their proposal. The study will begin once a contract partner has been identified, with the goal of beginning to roll out the county’s $5 million ARPA broadband investment by early 2023.