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News / Clark County News

Port of Camas-Washougal looks at partnerships to deliver internet

Commissioners meet with Petrichor Broadband officials

By Doug Flanagan, Camas-Washougal Post-Record
Published: February 5, 2022, 2:16pm

Port of Camas-Washougal officials know securing reliable, high-speed internet service is a problem for many local residents and businesses.

“We hear from the community that we have definite needs, not only for the economic development that we really want to promote,” Port Commissioner Cassi Marshall said recently, adding that the area’s need for reliable internet service has only grown with the number of people who have relied on their home internet for everything from work to health care to remote schooling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Jan. 19, the port commissioners heard from Petrichor Broadband representatives about how their Eastern Washington-based technology company could identify east Clark County areas that lack high-speed internet access.

Petrichor representatives Kara Riebold and Joe Poire said they could help officials in the area explore public-private partnerships and bring urban-rate services and pricing to the greater Camas-Washougal region.

“The port is interested in working with other local jurisdictions — Clark County, Clark Public Utilities, and the cities of Camas and Washougal,” said the port’s chief executive officer, David Ripp. “At this time, the port does not have any plans to lead a project, but we will look to see how we can connect our local providers with (Petrichor Broadband).”

Petrichor — a public corporation formed in 2020 by the ports of Kalama, Ridgefield, Bellingham, Pasco, Whitman County and Skagit County — provides broadband consulting and network-management services for public agencies across Washington, including other ports, tribes, counties, cities, public utility districts and industrial development zones.

Petrichor also advocates for legislation that promotes publicly owned, open-access, dark fiber infrastructure for the private sector to sell services.

“We work with all different entities that are interested in a dark fiber model or seeking partnerships to bring broadband to their jurisdictions,” Riebold said.

Petrichor’s model has already had success throughout Washington. The company said it has helped create 28 private-sector partnerships, manage 435 miles of fiber and better serve nearly 62,000 Washingtonians with reliable, high-speed internet.

“While you guys live just a small way away from the I-5 corridor and the Vancouver market, there’s quite a disparity between entry-level one-gig services on a special for $49 a month and the services just 20, 30, 40 miles away,” Poire said. “We’d look for ways to bridge those gaps with infrastructure.”