The Okanogan County PUD broadband department received the national Apex award from the Utilities Technology Council on June 19.
John MacDonald, Network Manager, accepted the award at a national conference in Texas, on behalf of the entire PUD and his team of two technicians and two network analysts.
The PUD was nominated by Rob Kahrmann, an account manager for Walker and Associates, which is a vendor for the PUD. The nomination was one of 26 nationwide.
In his letter, Kahrmann highlighted the benefits to the local economy, businesses, and homes with such a high-quality system – rare for a rural area. Because of the PUD fiber backbone, migrant workers can keep up with families back home, schools have virtual class access, hospitals have telemedicine, and community members can telecommute to work.
“The PUD is using wireless and fiber technology both wisely and actively to make the Okanogan Valley a desirable place to live and do business,” the letter states.
Because the PUD cannot sell services at the retail level, there are multiple retail service providers who connect the network to the consumer with fiber and wireless.
The broadband department is launching a new website on which customers interested in direct fiber or wireless can add themselves to a map, and as interest becomes greater in a particular area, the PUD can look into extending service that way. Extending service can be a costly prospect, but if clusters of neighbors decide to share the costs, it can be much more manageable. Customers can access the site at www.okpudfiber.org.
The more than 500-mile fiber backbone is capable of 100 gigabits per second, which is comparable to many city-based networks, according to MacDonald. He said in looking at other recipients of the Apex award, “There are large corporations on the list and we can go toe-to-toe with them.”