Another item of interest was a WPUDA Telecom Committee survey on Telecommunications policies. General Manager Doug Miller stepped the Commissioners through a few questions to help determine how the Pacific County PUD felt about utilities being able to sell telecom services on the retail market and their thoughts about Net Neutrality.
Prior to 2000, PUD #2 had provided broadband services, but with a change in Washington State law have been limited to selling telecom services only in the wholesale market; meaning they could sell some services if their network had extra capacity, but only to Internet providers or other entities that did not charge for services, like a municipality or school district, the wholesale market.
The survey was directed to all utilities that are involved in telecom services to collect information to take to state legislatures as they address the national question about Net Neutrality.
Currently Washington State is looking at the question to see how it may impact customers of Internet services and the way that current providers use a sliding scale for bandwidth and data rates.
With a rally poised for March the state is looking to have information available on the subject to see if it would be of interest for utilities, like the PUD, to be able to provide retail telecom services.
The commissioners were in support of the action and are sending that information forward to be in the overall count to help the FCC bring about Net Neutrality, which creates an even playing field and additional regulation for Internet providers.
"It is all in the name of fairness," noted PUD Commissioner Ron Hatfield, "I think it should have been done before."
In other business on the agenda, Miller brought to the attention of the commissioners an email string on the topic of the Tokeland Project.
A member of the Tokeland Chamber of Commerce was gathering information to present at the next chamber meeting and had questions around the length of time that the project had been taking, rates and reliability of the system once installed.
Miller paraphrased the communication to advise that he provided the following information:
The estimation is that the project is approximately six months behind its current schedule. With the current road map the connection of the Tokeland Project is slated for mid to late 2016, but has the caveat that new customers are still taking priority.
Estimated rates for residential customers in the Tokeland was advised that is should come in around 25% cheaper than what residents are currently paying from Grays Harbor PUD, but there will be some fare paid by residents for the new large load rates for commercial customers.
Miller also advised that with the new connection from Pacific County PUD the service into Tokeland would have a redundant connection with Grays Harbor in case of emergency and that reliability should be increased.
One item was brought out from the public in regard to past employee pay increases and COLA, that the hope was that the commissioners would stop using the phrase, "We were behind, and needed to catch up." And noted that for the size of the PUD, they're right in the middle of the state as far as other PUD's and their pay.
The next PUD meeting is scheduled for Feb. 17 in Long Beach.