Mount Baker Foundation is working with the Port of Bellingham and a community collaborative council to ensure equitable access to the internet across Whatcom County. To us, this means addressing internet connection, access to devices, affordable monthly service plans, and digital literacy.
Connect Whatcom! includes all school districts in Whatcom County, both tribes, several Internet Service Providers, the PUD, and many other organizations. The goal is to use the collective intellect to understand options to more quickly move to connectivity. These individuals and organizations see the issues created by the lack of internet access, and the impact on rural and low-income communities. This has been exacerbated in the wake of COVID-19 and the rapid transition to on-line education, tele-health, and social connectivity in the midst of isolation.
Given the immediacy of need and the time it takes to deploy broadband fiber, Mount Baker Foundation is exploring immediate, intermediate and long-term solutions. This may take the form of hotspots for households that access cellular service, the possibility of microwave and mesh networks that can be established faster than broadband fiber, and then ultimately supporting the “last mile” connectivity once rural broadband service is achieved.
We are interested in hearing from local experts, as well as those at the state, national or even global level.