Pierce County is exploring ways to support broadband internet service improvements in the community. A countywide broadband access evaluation completed in 2019 found that broadband gaps exist in rural areas of Pierce County and in some areas between cities. Pierce County is not unique in this regard as many communities across the state and nation face similar challenges.
While broadband internet service is largely provided by the private sector and the County’s role in service provision is limited, the County is considering a number of potential actions that are aimed at improving broadband service over time.
In July 2021 the Pierce County committed $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money to help with efforts to bridge the broadband gaps across the county. All ARPA funds must be spent by 2026 and meet grantor requirements.
Pierce County Planning and Public Works will work with any internet service or infrastructure providers who are interested in expanding service to any of the Broadband Development Incentive Areas. PPW will use financial incentives and process streamlining to encourage expansion of broadband internet service in the Broadband Development Districts.
- Identify neighborhoods with broadband service with this FCC Fixed Broadband Deployment Map that uses Federal Communications Commission data on broadband service across the nation.
- Find free, temporary or emergency internet access in Washington with this Drive-In Public WIFI Locator.
- Check what parts of the state have gaps in high-speed internet service, or that have broadband infrastructure needs in this Washington State Broadband Speed Study.
- Council Broadband webpage
Pierce County Code allows Incentives for the expansion of broadband within Broadband Development Districts. Providers who are interested in receiving incentives must enter into a Broadband Development Incentives Program Agreement with the Planning and Public Works Department.
|Expedited Permit Review||Lands Asset Management Right of Way Agent will fast track permits.|
|Waived or Reduced Permit Fees||Waive all permit fees.|
|Telecommunication Franchise Fee||Franchise Fees incentives can be considered and approved by Planning and Public Works.|
|Regulatory Incentives||The regulatory incentives are designed to provide both flexibility in broadband system design, permitting and regulatory requirements. All designs to be reviewed and approved by Planning and Public Works.|
|Waivers or Reduction in Costs for Use of County Property||All County property waivers or reduction in costs will be reviewed by Planning and Public Works.|
|Other Incentives||One time reimbursement in connection costs paid out of ARPA funding per new dwelling served, up to 50% of actual costs, not to exceed $3,000. Funding is on a reimbursement basis, upon submittal of actual costs. Projects must include a minimum of 500 dwellings.|
|Minimum Duration of Service Provision. |
Broadband system development created consistent within the provisions of this program shall be initiated within six months of the approval of the Broadband Development Incentives Program Agreement and completed based on the timeframe specified in the Agreement. Thereafter, once the project is completed, the service provider must make service available to the households and businesses specified for a minimum of ten years and in compliance with all other relevant terms of the applicable Franchise and applicable law.
|The Broadband system created within the provisions of this program shall be an Open Access Network upon the expiration of the existing Broadband Development Incentives Program Agreement.|
|The Broadband system created shall meet the original minimum speeds of 100mb download and 100mb upload to enter into a Broadband Development Incentives Program Agreement. The network must be scalable to allow the County to meet the 150mb/150mb network goals provided by Washington State found within RCW 43.330.536.|