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Thirty local businesses will receive internet access from the city’s fiber optic network as part of a pilot project that is moving forward.

The list of pilot project participants includes 19 business owners and 11 business tenants. Of those participants, 22 are at business locations, six are home-based businesses and two are telecommuters.

In 2014 the city built its own fiber optic network to avoid a $10,000 per month lease with Charter Communications for use of the company’s cable internet network. The city’s fiber optic network is capable of providing telecommunications services to customers beyond the city and public agencies. Energy Services recommended the pilot program to evaluate what staff time costs to run the network for expanded use before completing the wireless network project design.

The city put a call out to businesses interested in participating in the pilot project, and received a total of 58 applications by the Feb. 10 deadline. The 30 businesses selected for the project are all within city limits. None of the businesses are anticipated to have a fiber optic service connection that exceeds $5,000.

The city received $169,560 of economic development grant funding for fiber optic service connections from the 2016 Kittitas County Distressed County Sales and Use Tax Infrastructure Improvement Program Agreement, which is being used for the project. Part of the grant requires a local match of up to $67,824.

On Monday the Ellensburg City Council adopted a resolution for an interfund loan to authorize city staff to proceed with design and bidding for the fiber optic service connections. The council also authorized purchasing up to $20,000 of core network hardware to get parts that require a lengthy lead time.

If any business on the list withdraws their application, city staff will add another business in the order applications were received.

The next step is to start the designs and proceed with the bidding process. On the current timeline the participating businesses are expected to have internet access services available by Aug. 1.

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