Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Broadband Action Team meeting discusses ongoing developments

Ziply gets Brewster boost

Posted

OKANOGAN – Despite the smaller than usual attendance at the monthly meeting of the Broadband Action Team (BAT) on July 27, the group continues to make headway in its goal to bring broadband services to all parts of Okanogan County.

Economic Alliance Executive Director Roni Holder-Diefenbach reported that the North Central Washington Technology Alliance (NCWTA) is awarding grants for digital navigation training to area groups that need support to learn computer basics. NCWTA asked Holder to help them identify seven such groups such as senior centers, aging care providers, and others that would qualify.

“They are small grants - $4,000 – but it’s something that could help support a little bit of capacity building,” said Holder.

The basic requirements to qualify for a grant include:

• Attend a coalition launch.

• Designate a staff member to attend the digital equity/navigation training.

• Share responses that NCW Tech Alliance wants to get to all organizations throughout the county.

Diefenbach said NCWTA also has a program to provide donated and refurbished computers for businesses who do not have a computer or an email address to help move them onto an online platform.

“We have already identified several businesses that we will be either bring in for training or provide training at their locations,” said Diefenbach.

NCWTA also provides a year of tech support so if anything happens to a computer it can be repaired or replaced.

NCWTA is a 501(c)3 non-profit that has been working since 1999 to bring people and technology resources together while supporting entrepreneurs, STEM education, and technology in six NCW counties.

Kayla Wells-Yoakum of Okanogan County WSU Extension updated the meeting on its statewide month-long online remote work certification course. While the program costs $299 per person Yoakum said Spokane Teachers Credit Union (STCU) has provided some scholarship funds to help the unemployed pay the cost of the course.

“It’s open statewide and we have our first Okanogan County enrollment,” Yoakum said.

Chris St. Germaine of Ziply Fiber reported a significant update from her quarter.

“We have awarded contractors to work for the NTIA (National Telecommunications and Information Administration) broadband infrastructure program grant in Brewster, Tonasket, and Loomis,” said St. Germaine. “Many of the builds are expected to be fully ready for service within 60 days of start, so this is going to be a rapid deployment.”

St. Germaine explained that Ziply “created build blocks small enough to be able to get out on the job quickly. and get it done.”

The state applied for the first round of NTIA funding from the Broadband Infrastructure Program that came out of Covid, said St. Germaine. It focused on partnerships with providers so the state reached out to all providers asking for proposals and Ziply was one of those selected.

According to the Economic Alliance website, economic-alliance.com, the Okanogan County and Colville Confederated Tribes Broadband Action Team (BAT) was created in February 2019. The Alliance, Colville Confederated Tribes (CCT) and the county partnered together to apply for a planning grant through the state’s Community Economic Revitalization Board to conduct a strategic plan and feasibility study to identify the broadband needs in the county and the CCT Reservation. BAT is comprised of representatives from the county, cities, tribe, WSU Extension, community-based organizations, small business, ISP/RSP’s, utilities, infrastructure owners and community members. To learn more about BAT visit economic-alliance.com and select the OK CCT BAT tab.

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