Telecom conference slatedLeaders hope to get Bainbridge back in the race for telecommunications

"When the first railroad lines were laid more than 100 years ago, any town left off the line died. When the first highways were built this century, any town left off the highway died. To Kevin Dwyer of the Kitsap Economic Development Council, any community without good telecommunications lines will face the same fate as the unfortunate towns left off the railroad lines and highways.If they (cities) weren't on the lines, they were far removed from commerce, said Dwyer, of Bainbridge Island. If you're not connected, you're not going anywhere.The theory is particularly relevant to Dwyer, who sees Kitsap County stuck between the high-tech ambition it has for growth and the rural surroundings it wants to do it in. "

  • Wednesday, November 8, 2000 12:00pm
  • News

“When the first railroad lines were laid more than 100 years ago, any town left off the line died. When the first highways were built this century, any town left off the highway died. To Kevin Dwyer of the Kitsap Economic Development Council, any community without good telecommunications lines will face the same fate as the unfortunate towns left off the railroad lines and highways.If they (cities) weren’t on the lines, they were far removed from commerce, said Dwyer, of Bainbridge Island. If you’re not connected, you’re not going anywhere.The theory is particularly relevant to Dwyer, who sees Kitsap County stuck between the high-tech ambition it has for growth and the rural surroundings it wants to do it in. Although Kitsap’s population density makes it seem like a metropolitan area, Dwyer said businesses in the county – including those on Bainbridge – face some very non-metropolitan problems. The problem becomes particularly accute when so much of the new economy is tied to high-speed data transmission and access to the Internet.There are gaps in the telephone service (on Bainbridge), Dwyer said. It’s clear that you can’t always get the service you want, when you want it.Business leaders will discuss the telecommunications challenges faced in Kitsap County at a daylong seminar, Nov. 15 in Bremerton.We have more in common with rural folks than other counties, Dwyer said.When Dwyer and some other business leaders realized Poulsbo didn’t have the kind of telecommunication lines that city needed to remain competitive with other markets, they formed the Regional Telecommunications Committee in April 1999 to study what could be done. While pushing telecommunications provider Sprint to update its services in Poulsbo, Dwyer said the committee realized it was a countywide problem.Dwyer admits the committee can only do so much, and acts as a liaison between the community and telecom giants. Since telephone companies and public utilities corporations will ultimately be responsible for what is done, Dwyer said the council tries to grease the wheels for communication between the big companies and the communities they serve.They (telecommunications) have been very cooperative, Dwyer said. But since they are in competition with each other, they don’t like to tell you everything.The failure of Sprint, which serves Poulsbo, and Qwest, which serves Bainbridge Island, to reach an agreement on service provision has been blamed for the lack of high-speed, Tier 1 communications access on Bainbridge.Low population density on the island is also seen preclusive to investment in line upgrades.Those types of issues are precisely those facing non-metropolitan areas, and will be among the topics discussed.In fact, the island seems to be developing a reputation for being behind the curve in the telecommunications race. No punches were pulled at last week’s EDC general meeting, at which the island was labeled by a few in attendance as a telecommunications wasteland and the most backwards (telecom) community in Kitsap County. Dwyer said the EDC also is keeping a close eye on a Bonneville Power Administration project that will lay fiber optic line on the Kitsap Peninsula sometime next year. Dwyer said Bonneville will sell taps to the line wholesale to Internet service providers, telecommunications companies and community groups.Wireless communications hopes are also on the council’s collective mind. Dwyer said any improvement in the area’s telecommunications will benefit the community at large, not just businesses.Dwyer hopes the Olympic Regional Telecom Conference in Bremerton next week will help ease some of the telecommunication problems. The conference is modeled after a conference put on by Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Norm Dicks that addressed rural telecom issues in Spokane in May. Dwyer said the meeting of the conference in Bremerton will shed light on what the county has to offer and what it needs to offer more of.Everyone will benefit from better telecommunications, Dwyer said. It would be great to get the whole county involved.The Olympic Regional Telecom Conference will be Nov. 15 at the Cornerstone Building, 5610 Kitsap Way, in Bremerton. Admission is $20 and the conference is open to the public. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 15, but participants are encouraged to register early by calling (360) 377-9499 or by logging on to www.kitsapedc.org.Ben Cape writes for the Central Kitsap Reporter, the Review’s sister paper in Silverdale. Review staff writer Douglas Crist contributed to this report, as did Joe Irwin of the North Kitsap Herald. “

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