Governor Inslee meets with OPALCO to talk broadband, clean energy and electric ferries

On Tuesday, May 28, 2019, leadership from OPALCO and T-Mobile met with Governor Inslee to share the Rock Island Communications broadband success story in support of the Governor’s new statewide broadband office and initiatives. With its robust fiber and LTE foundation in place, OPALCO is excited to help move some of Governor Inslee’s key initiatives forward including Southern Resident Orcas Whale Survival, Clean Energy and Economic Development.

OPALCO General Manager Foster Hildreth and Board President Vince Dauciunas meet with Governor Inslee.

Foster Hildreth, General Manager of OPALCO and its wholly owned subsidiary Rock Island Communications, and Gerry Lawlor, Vice President of Fixed Broadband Services for T-Mobile USA updated Governor Inslee and a room full of stakeholders from businesses, schools, county government and public safety on the broadband infrastructure that now serves all of San Juan County.

“Our success with broadband is already having a dramatic effect on the quality of life, safety and opportunity threshold for our rural, remote residents in San Juan County,” said OPALCO Board Member Vince Dauciunas. Lawlor added that T-Mobile is replicating the OPALCO-Rock Island success story as a model for other rural communities to address critical issues such as education, telemedicine and public safety.

OPALCO and Rock Island leadership update Governor Inslee on their broadband success in San Juan County. From L-R: Alan Smith, Executive Vice President of Rock Island; Rick Christmas, OPALCO Board Member; Foster Hildreth, OPALCO General Manager; Vince Dauciunas, OPALCO Board President; Gerry Lawlor, Vice President of Fixed Broadband Services for T-Mobile USA.

Governor Inslee applauded OPALCO and it’s team for their innovation and progress. “The digital divide should not limit any Washingtonian’s ability to learn, innovate or connect through robust internet access,” said Inslee, “whether it is students researching ideas at home, first responders handling an emergency or entrepreneurs launching a business.” Broadband also gives us the tools in San Juan County to support the monitoring, operations and charging of electric ferries on our island routes, which improves conditions for the whales and reduces carbon pollution in our biologically diverse corner of the Salish Sea.

“Our fiber infrastructure is essential for the clean energy future envisioned by Governor Inslee,” said Hildreth. “With our communiations backbone already in place, OPALCO is decades ahead of most utilities and is positioned to realize a zero-carbon footprint in our lifetimes. We owe a debt of gratitude to the forward thinking OPALCO board members who directed us toward fiber way back in 1999; to our members who are showing their support of Rock Island as subscribers; and we couldn’t have achieved so much so fast without the expertise of our partners at T-Mobile USA.”

Orcas Power & Light Cooperative (OPALCO) is our member-owned cooperative electric utility, serving more than 11,400 members on 20 islands in San Juan County. OPALCO provides electricity that is 97% greenhouse-gas free and is generated predominantly by hydroelectric plants. OPALCO was founded in 1937. Follow OPALCO @OrcasPower on Facebook and Twitter.

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1 comment

  • Danny
    Danny Tuesday, 04 June 2019 23:21 Comment Link

    Broadband has many socioeconomic benefits for communities, but at what cost for OPALCO energy members? Since the board’s strategic directive to engage in broadband in 2014, and against the general consensus of the membership shown in a prior survey voting against it, due to cost, rates have quite literally skyrocketed. And there's no end in sight to these rate increases. The board materials are indicating steady annual rate increases into 2023 with facility charges of $75 per month and usage charges over 12 cents per kWH. I think if Governor Inslee was made aware of the significant and unjust cost borne by the membership, to provide broadband to the Islands, he would be utterly appalled.

    On a side note, there was literally billions of dollars of federal grant money available through Connect America, which Century Link applied for and used to improve their service throughout the Islands. Why didn’t OPALCO apply for this money or other grant money to help pay for broadband, instead of price gouging energy members?

    Also, it is OPALCO’s “backbone” that Rock Island is using, so why are they getting the lion’s share of the wholesale contract with T-Mobile for wireless? OPALCO energy member’s paid for that backbone, including the internet cabinets, which cost us about 10 millions dollars, so OPALCO energy members ought to be paid back for our investment, like now, to help offset these perpetual rate increases.

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