Wildland Fires of 2015 Spark a New Passion for Broadband
In 2015, the Carpenter Road fire destroyed 63,972 acres in Stevens County and on the Spokane Indian Tribe Reservation. The fire camp was without any access to internet for two weeks and had to drive GIS maps on a zip drive from the county office. This incident revived a long-term effort to improve broadband access in Stevens County.
Discovering ways to increase access and use of the internet has been addressed through WSU Stevens County Extension working in partnership with citizens, groups, business and agencies for many years. Even so, there are still gaps in broadband service and use. Following the fires, the Stevens County Broadband Action Team (SC BAT) was formed to continue earlier efforts. It builds on previous projects including the Horizons Community Leadership Program, USDA’s Stronger Economies Together, and the ARRA-funded Local Technology Planning Teams through the former Washington State Broadband Office. SC BAT has been invited by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to serve as a co-designer and field tester for a new broadband planning resource called the Broadband Connectivity Assessment Tool (BCAT).
Pre-positioned Fire Camps; explored a Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) feasibility grant for broadband deployment to address public safety and economic development. Will continue to look at other funding options
NTIA Community Connectivity Initiative; will give us new tools to accelerate broadband deployment, deepen broadband adoption, strengthen local policies, and use broadband to advance local priorities. This will enhance broadband and public sector efforts by the County and vendors.
Mapping; continue to look for ways to determine the availability and strength of existing internet in the county.
Support ISPs; help them identify service gaps and opportunities to more effectively connect with customers to increase broadband access and use.
Advocacy; learn about and comment on legislation and emerging technologies.
Tech Expo; SC BAT hosted the 2017 Tech Expo as an opportunity for the public to meet with ISPs and other technical vendors, learn about cybersecurity and social media, and test drive multiple internet accessible tools in the Stevens County Library’s Gadget Garage.
We are proud to have a diverse and active group:
WSU Extension: Debra Hansen, Stevens County Director and Monica Babine, Digital Initiatives Senior Associate
Broadband Access Team Coordinator: Bert Klimas
City of Chewelah: Dorothy Knauss, Mayor
City of Colville: Nancy Foll, Councilwoman
Colville School District: Pete Lewis, Superintendent and Mark Lafoon, Technology Director
Libraries of Stevens County: Amanda Six, Director, and Jessica Varang, IT Manager
Mary Walker School District: Brandon Rainey, Consultant
Rural Alliance: Kevin Jacka, Lead Superintendent
NE WA Health Programs: Desiree Sweeney, Chief Executive Officer and Bryan Lentes, IT
Providence Health Care: Theron Depaulo, IS-Site Director
Spokane Tribe of Indians: Frank Metlow, Assistant Planning & Economic Development Director and Tiger Peone, IT Director
Stevens County Commissioners: Wes McCart and Don Dashiell
Stevens County Emergency Management: Jim Caruso, Director
Stevens County Information Services: Mark Curtis, Director, and Trevor Sellars, Unified Communications Specialist
Stevens County Fire Protection District #12: Dave Klimas
Tri County Economic Development District (TEDD): Kinsey Coots, District Planner
US Congressional Staff:
Senator Cantwell: Bryan Raines and Narda Jones
Senator Murray: John Culton and Ben Merkel
Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers: Andrew Engell and Traci Couture