No internet plagues parts of BI

Christine Meyers must feel like she lives on an island within an island.

Bainbridge Island is known as a wealthy area, with the average home selling for more than $1 million. But there are places on BI where they don’t have internet service. That’s right. No internet. Hard to believe in this day and age.

“We’re a little surprised ourselves,” she said. “It feels like an outpost for sure.”

Meyers is not alone. Her neighbors in the Sunrise Bluff area don’t have it either. Actually many areas of not only BI, but elsewhere in Kitsap County also lack internet service. North Kitsap and Seabeck are the least served areas.

In 2015 Kitsap Public Utility District began gathering survey responses to determine locations of underserved communities. To date, 9,600 surveys have been submitted, and over 2,000 have resulted in service connection or are now near fiber infrastructure. Also, 1,600 of them reported they have no internet coverage.

Meyers hopes to change that in her neighborhood. She asks people to fill out the KPUD online survey, which is used information to help decide where to expand service. In a phone interview, Meyers said, “If you want the island to be wired, this is what you need to do.”

“I’d like to encourage my neighbors [and everyone else, frankly] to take the survey and see if we can get better internet access across the island,” Meyers also wrote in an email to the Review.

Meyers doesn’t blame KPUD for the lack of service. She knows expansion has to make sense economically. She’s actually glad there is a public utility because third parties would be “less concerned about constituencies.”

The county made a great decision “to make sure we as citizens of Bainbridge are not hostages to providers,” she said, adding the utility is doing what it can to “get over this hump to make sure everyone has access.”

Meyers just moved to BI from New York City in May. She was told there was no internet service, but that it was available. “What does available really mean?” she asked, adding she has explored different avenues for service, and, “There just isn’t any.”

It’s really important for her to have it because she works from home. The best she’s come up with is Wi-Fi on her cell phone. So, she’s looking into places that might have computers to use, such as an office to rent or a shared workspace.

Kimberly Funk of KPUD says in an email that the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t slow down its operations at all. On the contrary, there has been an increase in demand. “We connected over 600 homes and installed more than 75 miles” of infrastructure since the COVID onset, she says.

KPUD Board of Commissioners provided community support by issuing a $2.8 million bond to fund the construction.

“Although KPUD is impacted by concerns with supply chain issues, material shortages and labor costs, we have pre-purchased materials and supplies to continue to support fiber expansion well into 2023,” she says, adding delivery times and some materials costs have increased 100 percent over the past two years.

BI Mayor Joe Deets spoke some time ago that better internet service is needed on the island. The problem especially came to light during COVID shutdowns and people started working more from home and remote learning became common for students.

“It was an essential service then and it remains so,” Deets says in an email to the Review. “Addressing this issue has been akin to pushing on a string, hoping that service providers will someday decide to come to the Island. I believe that we need to keep all options open, including the forming of our own utility district.”

How to get service

The first step is for a resident to request an estimate for connecting their home. That request can be completed online at, email or call 360-626-7744.

Residents can also participate in KPUD’s online survey at KPUD will reach out when fiber is coming to their area.

How to fund it

KPUD has used capital funds to expand middle mile fiber infrastructure to rural areas; then, the resident or developer is responsible for last mile connection costs.

KPUD encourages homeowners to work together to share costs to finance infrastructure construction through a local utility district. A LUD allows homeowners to pay back the cost of the last mile connection over 20 years. Since 2016, KPUD has completed over 15 LUD-funded projects connecting communities from 10 homes up to 200.

Residents pay a one-time connection fee of $2,500 per home The one-time fee is included in the KPUD estimate and included in LUD financing. Once connected, residents choose from one of six service providers available on the KPUD Network and are responsible for paying the monthly fees. Startup costs range from nothing to $125; contracts from none to a year; and monthly costs from $49.95 to $99.95.

Projects in the works

• Tri Pointe Homes is providing it to 85 new homes in Poulsbo.

• McCormick Village & Trails Residential development in Port Orchard with 159 homes, with more coming later during this phased development. Tri Pointe Homes and Pulte Homes are providing it.

• Larson Lane, 100 properties, and Hintzville, 550, both in Bremerton, both paid for by local utility districts that were formed, along with grant funding. Also, Lennar Homes is providing it to 314 homes in a phased development in Bremerton.

• ARPA (COVID) Funds through Kitsap County are paying for the Pioneer/Turko Fiber Extension. This is one of up to 30 Node Facility Sites to be built county-wide. A node is a point of connection to fiber infrastructure that increases the opportunity for residents in the node to access fast fiber internet.

KPUD history

The KPUD website says it has operated a high-speed open access fiber optic network throughout the county for over 15 years. Over 200 miles of broadband telecommunications have been installed, enabling many agencies to be connected to the modern world.

Areas are unserved (no broadband or have a slow internet connection) or underserved (no broadband connection; internet speeds are considered underserved by the state and federal definitions).

After passage of a state law in 1999 permitting Public Utility Districts to provide wholesale telecommunications services, KPUD initiated a county-wide fiber optic network building plan. The long-term goal is to build all public buildings to provide an emergency communications platform in case of natural disaster. Products include internet, video, telephone and other business services.