TwispWorks also conducting survey on broadband services

With an increasing number of Methow Valley residents telecommuting for their work, the need for fast, reliable broadband Internet service also continues to grow.

To assess the current state of Internet service and needs in the valley, a community meeting will be held next Wednesday (Oct. 10) at 7 p.m. at the Methow Valley Community Center. The meeting is part of an initiative coordinated by TwispWorks to address rural broadband Internet issues in the Methow Valley.

To better understand local residents’ experience with Internet service, TwispWorks has also developed a survey to solicit public feedback. The survey is available at the Twisp and Winthrop libraries and online at the TwispWorks Facebook page, and on the website under “What’s New.” “The survey will be an important piece in understanding [residents’] experiences,” said Ashley Thrasher, program manager at TwispWorks.

Since spring, TwispWorks has been working with the Town of Twisp, Okanogan County and Partners for Rural Washington (PRWA) to complete an assessment of Internet coverage. TwispWorks, which has a mission of promoting the local economy, has identified rural broadband Internet as a priority issue, Thrasher said.

“Over 13 percent of Methow Valley residents work remotely and rely on the Internet to earn their livelihood,” said Thrasher. That figure is based on a recent economic survey conducted by TwispWorks. “Every day, valley businesses rely on the Internet for marketing and financial transactions,” she said.

The Internet is essential to local education as well, Thrasher said. “Students rely on the Internet to complete assignments and parents actively monitor their progress through the Internet,” she said.

“Here in the Methow Valley, we are fortunate to have great, local Internet service providers who are committed to quality and customer service. But it’s no secret that some valley residents either do not have the service that they require, or are unaware of how to get the service that they want,” Thrasher said.

Under an agreement with the Town of Twisp and Okanogan County, PRWA is conducting a valley-wide, rural broadband Internet needs assessment. Mario Villanueva, PWRA executive director, has been working with the Okanogan Public Utility District and local Internet service providers to evaluate the existing infrastructure.

At next week’s community discussion, Villanueva will discuss what he has learned about local Internet services and infrastructure, share information from the survey, and lead a community conversation about residents’ Internet needs.

At the end of the study, PWRA will provide a written report outlining possible next steps, costs and potential funding sources for enhancing broadband service in the Methow Valley. The goal, said Thrasher, will be to create a broadband plan, identify funding sources and complete needed infrastructure improvements.

PRWA is providing consulting services and technical assistance to Twisp under a Memorandum of Understanding approved by the town council. The Winthrop Town Council was expected to consider a similar memorandum at its Wednesday (Oct. 3) meeting.