Centerfuse secures broadband study grant

Ellensburg’s economic development board, CenterFuse, has secured a $50,000 grant from the Washington State Department of Commerce for a “Broadband Planning-Feasibility Study,” according to the news release from Centerfuse.

CenterFuse was one of nine economic development groups statewide and one of just two in Eastern Washington to receive funding from the Public Works Board.

Executive director of CenterFuse, Carolyn Honeycutt, said robust, accessible broadband is essential to the business development needs to diversify the economy, raise wages, and support overall quality of life.

“The broadband in our community has evolved over many years; there are several providers and substantial inconsistency in what is available,” said Honeycutt. “This grant will allow us to fully understand community infrastructure and tell us how to make it more reliable, faster, and more accessible.”

Honeycutt added that increasingly businesses are relying on Internet solutions for a broad range of business management needs, from revenue management and customer outreach to marketing.

“We need to be sure our community can provide small businesses to access Internet at speeds and capacity that support business needs,” she said.

Honeycutt, who also serves as the Economic Development Manager for the city of Ellensburg, said the study also will recommend strategies to resiliency for public safety capabilities. Increasingly, public safety is reliant on the Internet to push alerts, notifications, and even phone calls — both to first responders and to citizens. Enhancing and broadening connectivity makes the community safer with faster, more reliable broadband and redundant fiber that ensures uninterrupted communications when they are needed most.

One of the core considerations of the feasibility study will be to ensure redundancy of broadband connectivity. The city of Ellensburg is served by a small number of service providers, all relying on the same physical infrastructure to provide connectivity. While there is some redundancy outside of the city limits, all city broadband is terminated at a single location, creating a single point of vulnerability for all city broadband. The study will evaluated and propose ways to reduce this risk.

Honeycutt said the grant award process demonstrated the high level of collaboration and hard work among members of the volunteer CenterFuse board and key community stakeholders, including the Kittitas County Chamber of Commerce, Wheatland Bank, Central Washington University, CI Security, the city of Ellensburg, Ellensburg Downtown Association, and Hotel Windrow, Board members researched, socialized, and wrote the grant itself, which Honeycutt benefitted greatly from the information technology expertise of CWU’s vice president of operations, Andreas Bohman.

“This grant shows that when we come together for important community priorities we really can accomplish incredible things,” said Honeycutt.

CenterFuse will create and distribute a Request for Proposals in January 2020 for consultants equipped to conduct the analysis. The study will have three parts: assessment current broadband ecosystem and technology infrastructure; identification of strategic investment required to enhance existing services and increase the quality and accessibility of broadband connectivity, especially for underserved residents; and recommendation of strategies to develop a ‘smarter’ city, with businesses and citizens connected to a smart grid that offers access to a variety of municipal services, including public safety and utility services.

CenterFuse (the Ellensburg Business Development Authority) is authorized by the city of Ellensburg to strategically recruit and support businesses. The nine-member independent board recently revised the economic development section of the City’s Comprehensive Plan, sponsored a brainstorming session with the Washington State Department of Commerce, and led the creation of two Innovation Zones, authorized under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

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