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Broadband upgrade planned for Lower Valley communities

YAKIMA - Several governmental agencies around the Lower Valley will benefit from improved broadband services.

That's the result of action Yakima County commissioners took yesterday, Tuesday, in approving a $1 million contract with Bothell-based PowerCom, Inc.

Funded by a federal grant, 90 percent of those funds will be used to upgrade fiber optic connections in areas below Union Gap such as YVCC's Grandview campus, the Sunnyside Library, Sunnyside City Hall, the Grandview Police Department and the Harrison Hill water tower in Sunnyside.

The program will extend the county's existing fiber optic network or "backbone" to additional government agencies and municipalities in the Lower Valley.

"This is really huge for the Lower Valley," says George Helton, the county's director of technology services. "Governments will be able to have improved, faster systems with less expense. The goal is to make government more efficient."

He says upgraded fiber optic will be up and running by the end of July. Helton says it will offer government or agency offices improved e-mail, a high speed data network, telephone and videoconferencing services.

He said some Lower Valley agencies are already set up on the county's faster network, such as the Lower Valley District Court and the Sunnyside Police Department.

Helton emphasizes the upgrade is only to benefit public agencies and government.

"We will not compete with private industry or service private customers," he said. "This is a smart government initiative. It's the right thing to do. Local governments can use this service to be more effective in delivering programs."

Helton says the county has been building its network for the past eight years.

The Harrison Hill water tower is integral to the system's success, he adds.

"We have a radio shot off of that tower down to the Sunnyside Police Department," Helton said. "It's the primary link for the Sunnyside police and the county public services shop in Sunnyside."

He says the public should feel little or no impact when local agencies change over to the new broadband network. E-mail addresses and domain names will not be affected.

"There will be very little disruption, if any," Helton says. "We're trying to make it as seamless as possible."

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