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Some rural Whatcom communities see their internet access options improve

File photo. Whatcom News

WHATCOM COUNTY, Wash. — This week Sumas learned internet service provider Comcast was committing to a $4.2M infrastructure investment to extend their internet service to 815 households in Sumas over the next 2 years. In addition, 102 Nooksack Tribe households begin using satellite based Starlink internet service last month.

On March 24th, the Nooksack Tribe hosted a demonstration of the Starlink system for local agencies who have been evaluating options for resolving internet access issues across Whatcom County. According to a press release from the Nooksack Tribe, attendees to the demonstration included representatives from local school districts, Lummi Nation, Opportunity Council and the Port of Bellingham along with County Councilmember Rud Browne, Whatcom PUD #1 Commissioner Christine Grant and County Executive Satpal Sidhu.

Attendees saw a demonstration of the installation of a Starlink hardware kit (includes a dish transceiver, mounting hardware and WiFi router) at one of the Nooksack Tribe’s community buildings and then were able to connect to the internet via the new connection, reportedly at speeds up to 190Mbps.

102 Starlink hardware kits have been provided to Tribal households by the Nooksack Tribal Council according to the press release. These households were identified as being limited to accessing the internet at download speeds below the federal broadband minimum of 25Mbps or not at all. They received the kits ($499 retail) and Starlink internet service ($99/month) at no cost for the first year with the option of continuing at $99 per month thereafter.

Sumas Mayor Kyle Christensen said in an email to Whatcom News regarding the Comcast announcement, “We are looking forward to having higher speed internet available in our City. This will be a huge benefit to our residents and businesses.” He added this news will hopefully help attract businesses to the Sumas Industrial Park and downtown commercial area.

Comcast Spokesperson Andy Colley said in an email to Whatcom News, in addition to the Sumas expansion, Comcast also recently announced infrastructure expansions that will reach more than 2,100 homes in rural areas of Snohomish and Spokane Counties requiring investments totaling $9.4 million. He said Comcast had “been collaborating with the City of Sumas on this opportunity over the past couple of years and we’re excited to now be able to announce the expansion of our network into this rural community.”

According to the press release about the announcement, “Comcast has invested over $990 million in capital expenditures in Washington over the past three years, including investments in the company’s network.” Comcast currently serves more than 1.6 million residential and business customers throughout Washington state according to the company.

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