Development of Dark Fiber Optics

The Port of Ridgefield is investing in dark fiber optic infrastructure to promote world-class, high-performance economic development in Southwest Washington’s Discovery Corridor. When funded and completed, this infrastructure will lower the up-front capital costs of private internet service providers, allowing them to better serve their end users – our businesses, institutions, and citizens.

As of third quarter 2021 we’re actively working on broadband deployment in the following phases. (See map graphic at right)

Phase I (Blue) – Fiber backbone. Currently funded. Total project cost $1,262,000.
Funding for this phase came from the State of Washington’s Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) in the amount of $946,500 (half loan, half grant). The Port of Ridgefield contributed a required match of $315,500.

Phase 1 Status: Currently working on permitting and right-of-way; This phase will likely go out for bid by end of 2021; fiber for this phase has already been purchased by the port. ($150,000).

Phase II (Orange) – Fiber backbone. Not currently funded.

(Purple)Downtown/Hillhurst Neighborhood– Currently funded.
Total project cost $2,351,000. Funding from CERB $1,880,800 (all grant).

Purple Status:
The port is currently working on pre-contract conditions for CERB.

Red lines on the map indicate installed underground conduit for future fiber installation.
The port has conduit in the ground in both La Center, the east side of Ridgefield, and the WSU Vancouver entrance.

In 2015, our port commission and staff recognized the lack of high-speed internet access puts Discovery Corridor businesses at a competitive disadvantage from their Metro Area competitors. This limitation also hampers our educational institutions’ efforts to deploy distance-learning programs and conduct data-dependent research projects.  In short, port representatives realized the Discovery Corridor was missing the modern infrastructure necessary for a healthy, modern economy.

State legislation in 2015 allowed ports to build broadband networks in underserved or non-served areas designated as “rural,” of which the Discovery Corridor did not qualify due to its proximity to the Portland-Metro area.

So, at that time, with no commitments from private broadband providers to make the necessary infrastructure investment anytime soon, in 2016 the port put dedicated staff resource toward the effort to change the legislation to allow all ports in Washington to develop broadband networks.

Port Sees Success – Legislation Changed
After hosting educational summits, communicating with Washington legislators and private service providers, and working with partner ports and the Washington Public Ports Association, the Port of Ridgefield’s effort was successful. In March 2018 Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed Substitute House Bill 2664 into law. The broadly supported, bipartisan bill gives all Washington state port authorities the opportunity to develop open-access broadband infrastructure for lease to all interested service providers.

This broadband deployment model has been working for nearly 20 years in Whitman County, Washington where the port there took the risk of pioneering the model, and proved it to be valid.

 Progress & Challenges

The Port of Ridgefield was instrumental in establishing Petrichor LLC, a broadband consortium comprised of our port and several other Washington State ports. Petrichor’s work is to seek, develop and deploy broadband networks for lease to private service providers.

To support the work of Petrichor, the Port of Ridgefield earlier posted a Request for Information (RFI) on the Contractor section of our website. Through the RFI, we’re seeking to work with potential partners interested in leasing some or all of the Port’s planned fiber to make affordable, scalable, Gigabit-class broadband available to businesses, economic development areas, first-responder facilities, and other community anchor institutions (CAIs) in the Ridgefield area, as well as to residences.

In late 2021, infrastructure bill hold-ups at the federal level and funding allocation obstacles at the state level continue to make broadband development a challenge for ports. The immense political power of legacy carriers, that don’t wish to see broadband networks in the hands of the public, also plays a significant role in keeping ports from developing this important community infrastructure.

The Port of Ridgefield’s strategy at this time is to lay conduit in open trenches when notified by municipalities and contractors in preparation for future dark fiber. We seek out grant funds for fiber line installation specific to projects with significant economic development or education benefits to the community. With Petrichor’s help, we are also continuing to lobby at the state and federal level for the need for high-speed broadband capacity and requisite funding in our region.

POR Fiber
blue fiber optics
Port of Ridgefield’s full commission, CEO Brent Grening, Innovation Vice President Nelson Holmberg, and representatives from other Washington ports attended the March 22, 2018 signing event by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, at which he formalized Substitute House Bill 2664, giving all port authorities in the state the opportunity to develop open-access broadband infrastructure.

Funding Needed
While the Port of Ridgefield has completed the network design of the total project and construction of a few small pieces of the broadband network, significant funds are necessary to make the entirety of the fiber loop a reality. Today, the port continues its effort to secure the millions of dollars required to fund this critical project.

For more information, these articles provide additional detail.






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