Expanding broadband access for residents and businesses in Snohomish County has been and continues to be a high priority. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted just how dependent we are on reliable, high speed internet and how large the service gaps are among our residents and businesses. The effort to expand broadband access took a large step forward this month with the inaugural meeting of the Snohomish County Broadband Action Team (BAT).  

The BAT is a collaboration of stakeholders in our community focused on identifying the need for broadband expansion, raising the awareness of the need, and developing strategies for addressing the need. Executive Somers, Councilmember Low, and I have brought these stakeholders together to form the BAT. The stakeholders involved include community leaders from education, healthcare, business, first responders, local government, and providers. The group met for the first time on March 4th, 2021.  

All of the BAT members are excited about the opportunity to collaborate and bring our collective efforts together around this goal: to bring reliable, high speed internet to every resident and business in Snohomish County.  

Our effort is supported by the Washington State Broadband Office. Russ Elliot, the Director of the Broadband Office, joined our meeting last week to share insights about the existing data in Snohomish County. The precursor to developing expansion strategies is good data. Through a speed and access survey on the State Broadband website, we are able to map out the areas of the county based on reliable, unreliable, and no internet service. (The link to the speed and access survey is included at the bottom of the digital column). 

Based on this data, our network of BAT members will leverage our local efforts for expansion projects through private service providers as well as state and federal investments. Other regions of the state have seen great success following the creation of their Broadband Action Teams and we are confident that we will help lead the state in broadband expansion in Snohomish County. Over 40 stakeholders attended our first meeting and we expect that number to grow as we move forward.  

One of our first initiatives as a group will be the launch of Broadband Action Week in Snohomish County, taking place from March 29th through April 2nd. During this week, we will be pushing out the access and speed survey to residents, students, and businesses across the county. We will have messaging to increase the awareness of the importance of reliable, high speed internet and education about our efforts to bring it to more people. 

The desired outcome of Broadband Action Week is to significantly increase the number of responses to the survey which will give us better data to work off of. With this data, we can get to work to identify projects and funding sources moving forward.  

I am thrilled to be working with Executive Somers, Councilmember Low, and our large network of stakeholders through the Snohomish County Broadband Action Team. 

To access the speed and access survey, visit https://www.commerce.wa.gov/building-infrastructure/washington-statewide-broadband-act/speedtestsurvey/  

 Nate Nehring is a member of the Snohomish County Council and represents District 1 which includes Arlington, Darrington, Granite Falls, Marysville, Stanwood, and unincorporated north county. He can be reached by email at Nate.Nehring@snoco.org or by phone at 425-512-4810.

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