$5 million plan will bring Key Peninsula high-speed internet

High-speed Internet is coming to the Key Peninsula.

Pierce County announced in a news release Monday that it is partnering with Comcast.

The agreement: “will expand the availability of high-speed Internet services on the Key Peninsula,” the release said.

The Internet expansion will bring a “fast and reliable fiber-rich network and a full suite of services to over 526 Key Peninsula homes and businesses,” according to the release.

The project is estimated to cost around $5 million. Pierce County is contributing $3.75 million from the American Rescue Plan Act.

“In July 2021, Pierce County committed $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to help with efforts to bridge the broadband gap across the county,” Erin Babbo, communications director for Pierce County, told Gateway on Tuesday. “All ARPA funds must be used by 2026 and meet the grantors’ requirements.”

The rest of the cost of the Key Peninsula project will be covered by Comcast, Babbo said. Comcast will also build the infrastructure.

“Now, more than ever, it’s critical that people have access to high-speed Internet,” Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier said in the release. “Whether it’s for work, school or entertainment, we want to help all county residents enjoy the benefits of this important infrastructure.”

Pierce County and Comcast expect construction to begin around the end of this summer after they complete the design and begin the permitting process, Babbo said.

They estimate that construction will be complete by the end of 2024, Babbo said.

“Once permits are obtained and construction has begun in public rights-of-way, Comcast will create an online resource for residents seeking information about the network being built in their neighborhood, including answers to frequently asked questions and product and service details,” the press release said.

Planning for this project began in November 2021, when Pierce County began seeking potential partners to expand broadband Internet access in areas of Pierce County identified as unserved or underserved, Babbo said.

“Comcast was one of the respondents selected for their proposal to serve addresses in the North Key Peninsula Broadband Development District,” Babbo said.

Much of the Key Peninsula does not have access to Internet service that meets a minimum speed of 25 mbps download/3 mbps upload, Babbo told Gateway.

Pierce County recognizes the public benefit that broadband service can contribute to the economic development and quality of life of communities and businesses in underserved and unserved areas,” said Babbo. “All of our communities must have access to this important resource.”

How much will it cost the residents?

Once the extended network has been activated on the Key Peninsula, prices will vary by plan.

Comcast residential Internet services range from $19.99 to $80 per month, according to their website, and business Internet services range from $49.99 to $349.99 per month.

Residents will be able to sign up for the company’s Internet Essentials program, which provides low-cost, high-speed broadband to households with limited income, according to Babbo.

The Interest Essentials program offers free internet to qualified residents through an application process.

“Comcast has connected more than 21,000 households in Pierce County to high-speed Internet at home, many for the first time, through the Internet Essentials program,” Babbo said.

Others may qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program, Babbo said, which gives eligible households a $30 monthly credit for Internet and cell service.

Aspen Shumpert is a reporter for The Peninsula Gateway. She grew up in Tacoma and graduated from Washington State University in May 2022. She began working at The News Tribune in March 2022.

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