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Erica Wilkins

The city of Anacortes is pioneering the new wave of broadband internet. The city is the first in North America to install a fiber optic network throughout their water pipes.

Various water plants across the far-reaching water system were experiencing communication failure and Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer had to solve this citywide problem.

“We have a regional water system, its the largest water system in both Skagit and the Island Counties,” Buckenmeyer said. “It’s a big water system so how to a get a signal from the water plant out to these areas – that was the challenge."

Through research, Buckenmeyer found Craley, an information and technology group from England that has patented the method of putting fiber optics in the water pipe.

“I was sold,” Buckenmeyer said. “And they loved me because I was making the big splash in America for them.”

Buckenmeyer said the technology seemed to be perfect fix for the city’s troubles, so he had a representative from Craley come show the technology.

“I figured that was about the only way I could get fiber optics across the valley,” Buckenmeyer said.

After a trip to Spain to get a better look at the operation, Buckenmeyer brought the idea back with him to the city of Anacortes where they have been working on installing the network ever since.

Anacortes Public Works Director Fred Buckenmeyer // Photo by Erica Wilkins

“We didn’t really try to be pioneers,” Buckenmeyer said. “We’re cutting-edge out of necessity.”

The city is going to be connecting the various pump stations with a fiber optic network and doing so with enough extra capacity that they can build a municipal broadband system over top of that backbone, Buckenmeyer said.

“Now we’re moving into that phase which is using that dark fiber telemetry system to build the broadband system,” Buckenmeyer said.

Anacortes has set a trend for other states as well with multiple other cities across the nation looking toward the Pacific Northwest.

“Of course, everyone is interested in this,” Buckenmeyer said. “The city of Phoenix called us yesterday, someone in Texas has called and Snohomish County is already using some of this technology to make a run from their dam to their power plant through one of the tunnels that carry their water”.

The project is called Fiber to the People, according to Buckenmeyer, and the city is planning on starting their first two pilot projects this summer.

“It depends how popular those are and how fast it’ll all take off from there,” Buckenmeyer said. “But we are pretty excited about it.”

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