Libraries of Stevens County

Loon Lake, WA


Describe the need that you’re trying to address.

Our rural area lacks adequate internet access to many homes and home-based businesses. Insufficient access, rural mountain and forest terrain, and unaffordable costs are three barriers to bringing broadband internet to many communities in our county. Stevens County, a county the size of Delaware in square miles, is rural and has low-density population with 17.6 people per square mile, increasing the challenge for providers to expand their reach.

Libraries of Stevens County (LOSC) has eight library branches in our county-wide district. Our libraries offer free WiFi 24/7; however, parking (and indoor seating/space) is limited. At Chewelah Public Library, we often have every seat occupied in addition to several outdoor and parking lot WiFi users. This historic building would be difficult to expand due to its geography and architecture, and shares a physical footprint with the community center, police station, city hall, and fire station.

We would like to address the need for more access by creating a WiFi hotspot at the Chewelah public park, named Jenne Memorial Park (http://chewelah.org/visitor-information/entertainment/the-city-park/). Just three blocks north of Chewelah Public Library, this park is large, expansive, and beautiful with sufficient parking, outbuildings, and electricity. This park would be an ideal library WiFi extension.


What would be a successful outcome for your project?

A successful outcome would:

- serve residents and visitors of Chewelah, WA at the park

- be a consistent connection in a popular area for Chewelah residents, area visitors, and passing travelers to access high speed internet.

- include extended cooperation and commitment from all key parties involved.

- involve sharing the technology plan, successes, and setbacks with other communities to replicate the project in rural areas throughout the world.

- attract out of area ISPs to bring services or current ISPs to expand services in our county to replicate or expand this type of technology, thanks to the abundance of open TV Whitespace in our area and others like ours.

The Chewelah Public Library has a solid 100 mbps connection speed via microwave technology. It is consistent, reliable, and affordable. This signal extension would be broadcast from 6 AM to 10 PM, consistent with park curfew hours. The park has a large entertainment stage, numerous tables, natural seating and shaded areas, playground equipment, restrooms, and picnic shelters. If deemed to have the best/reliable signal, we anticipate the stage to house and secure installed equipment. It is centrally located within the park with easy access for city officials, has a high ceiling for mounted equipment (both for aesthetics and practicality of signal) and has electrical access.

Parks are popular almost year round in our communities. This particular park is home to an award-winning farmer’s market every Friday May-October, a thriving and highly-attended summer festival called Chataqua in July, and a popular destination for family reunions, summer picnics, and water play, thanks to a year-round stream flowing through the park. This park is located along Highway 395, a busy highway that traverses our county all the way up to Canada, making it an ideal rest area for travelers as well. The park is centrally located in our county.

This park is also located within two blocks of the public schools in Chewelah. Both schools are identified as possible evacuation center during disasters and were utilized two years ago when several fires threatened parts of our county. Several families were displaced.

The City of Chewelah Mayor Dorothy Knauss is active in bringing her city better broadband and has held several meetings with area and out-of-area internet service providers, urging action. Mayor Knauss also attends several state and regional meetings to better understand digital initiatives in other areas, as well as advocate for her city. She is also a member of the Next Century Cities group, a national organization whose sole purpose is to get broadband in rural America. Mayor Knauss, LOSC Director Amanda Six, and Technology Education Manager Jessica Varang are part of a county team of representatives pushing and pursuing broadband for Stevens County residents. This Stevens County Broadband Action Team (or the BAT group as we call ourselves) is diligent in contacting local government, state representatives and congressmen. We have full support from a community team of highly networked, highly intelligent, and highly capable individuals.

Please list your team members or partners and their roles

The key members of this particular project would be Jessica Varang as Project Manager (Technology Education Manager for LOSC), Amanda Six, Team Member and Project Supervisor (Director for LOSC), Mayor Knauss, Team Member and Project Supervisor (City of Chewelah), and Mike Frizzell, Team Member and Project Supervisor (City of Chewelah, City Administrator). We anticipate that members of an Information Technology company named ExBabylon would help implement equipment from the wall connection to patrons, including the firewall, SSIDs, and security of the connection. Other team members will play supporting roles and continued promotion of the WiFi access spot.

The aforementioned group known as BAT represents several groups and agencies in our county: LOSC, Mayor Knauss, Washington State University Extension, Stevens County Information and Technology & Emergency Responders Network, Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart, Stevens County Emergency Management Director Jim Caruso, Tri County Economic Development District, Spokane Tribe of Indians, among others. The team frequently includes Senator Maria Cantwell’s Regional Director (Bryan Raines), Representative Patty Murray’s staff, and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rodgers Regional Staff (Andrew Engell) at meetings. The team has been diligent about finding funding, working together to create and sustain better access, and holding ISPs accountable who under-deliver in our area.


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