By Jamie Henneman/The Independent Staff
Access to high speed internet is becoming increasingly important for rural communities that want to attract businesses, enable residents to telecommute and improve connectivity for students of all ages who need the internet for research and homework.
The value of having high connectivity has been recognized by a number of community groups, including Tri-County Economic Development and the Stevens County Broadband Action Team (BAT). Both groups hosted the Stevens County Tech Expo at the community college in Colville last Thursday designed to help get a “buzz” going on the topic, according to BAT member WSU Extension Coordinator Debra Hansen.
“BAT is a group of elected officials, business leaders, the Spokane Tribe, organizations and community members interested in increasing broadband access and options. Our members come from all parts of the county, and are avidly interested and passionate about this cause,” said Hansen. “The Tech Expo was offered to get more information out to the public, and start a buzz about our work.”
The Expo allowed vendors to discuss their plans to expand internet connectivity in the region, including to the Chewelah area. Vendors also included IT companies, software training companies and internet security firms. Area high school tech teams like the Kettle Falls Robotics team and the Colville High School Alternative Energy class also offered demos of their switchboards, robots and tech projects at the event.
Internet providers featured included CenturyLink, NoaNet, StarTouch, Desert Winds Wireless and the Spokane Tribe Telecom Exchange.
CenturyLink has already announced plans to bolster its internet coverage in the Chewelah area in 2017 and has a designated phone number residents can call (509-235-3206) to get updates regarding internet services.
The Spokane Tribe has also launched an initiative to expand internet services on Spokane Tribal lands, including improved internet to the Chewelah Casino. Spokeswoman Robin Kennedy said that once the tribe has met its infrastructure goals for tribal lands, it plans to branch out and offer services to non-tribal entities. Updates on the project can be viewed at www.spokanetribetelecom.com.
Local providers are also working to provide improved internet options to residents, including Desert Winds Wireless. Desert Winds, also known as Internet Xpress, offers residential service in Chewelah with plans varying from 3 megabytes to 20 megabytes per month. The entrepreneurial group has a growing fiber infrastructure and now offers wireless internet delivery along with land-line service. For more information on rates, contact www.plix.com.
Hansen said bringing internet providers together for the Expo highlighted why improving connectivity is important.
“Small businesses, big businesses and home businesses all need to stay connected to their clients, customers and providers,” Hansen said. “Organizations, communities and individuals are realizing the importance of greater connectivity for e-commerce, getting up-to-date information and connecting with others.”
For more information about the Stevens County Broadband Action Team (BAT), contact Debra Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org.