Harrington is a rural community of about 400 people in Lincoln County about an hour west of Spokane. In 2012, it was one of several communities whose library received a high-speed fiber connection as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The Lincoln County Public Development Authority (PDA) believed if their entire downtown –not just the library –could access broadband, then people interested in a rural lifestyle might consider relocating their businesses there. Knowing that Harrington is too small for a large private internet service provider (ISP) to make the investment needed to bring service to its citizens, the Lincoln PDA made a deal: It asked the library’s private ISP to become downtown Harrington’s provider.
With funding from local tax revenue, the PDA purchased the necessary equipment, the provider installed it and committed to maintain service to the downtown area. The project went live. Just two years after formulating a plan, Harrington had gigabit internet service with equipment purchased, owned, and operated locally — which cost the PDA less under $10,000.
Harrington Mayor Justin Slack said his family moved to Harrington from Seattle in 2013.
“I was able to use the high speed connection available here to maintain my career as a commercial property appraiser,” Slack said. “We opened up a coffee shop at the site of the old post-office as a space for folks to use the service, and eventually had the idea to create a co-working space for other teleworkers like me.”
Slack said ‘The Post and Office’ currently serves the Harrington community with a high speed connection, and allows local residents to maintain their urban jobs at companies like Microsoft and Indeed.com. Nearby, the historic ‘Electric Hotel’ is being renovated and a new storefront that sells jewelry and artwork is exploring e-commerce.
“It just goes to show that with a little help from government, some local dollars, and community support, we can make a big difference in rural Washington,” Slack said.
That’s the difference Gov. Jay Inslee hopes to see in more communities statewide. Today, he was joined by Slack as well as legislative and tribal leaders to detail his proposal to expand broadband.