According to candidate, Whatcom is behind the curve with providing broadband infrastructure
WHATCOM — Christine Grant has more than a decade of experience working with public utilities and electric cooperatives, and she said her background in finance and investment make her an ideal candidate for the Public Utility District board.
Grant said three generations of her family have lived in Whatcom County, with her parents settling at a farmhouse just outside of Deming in the 1970s. She attended Wellesley College where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Studies with an economic and policy concentration.
“I’ve spent most of my career advising utilities and working on energy and resource conservation policy,” Grant said.
Grant said she has helped her clients bring in almost $25 million in competitive funding, and she has a background in finance/investment strategies for public sector agencies and utilities. She teaches energy policy at Western Washington University’s Institute for Energy Studies, and she has also provided consulting services on agricultural and water issues to clients such as the American Farmland Trust, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Washington State Department of Health, and the Port of Seattle.
Grant said Whatcom County residents are extremely frustrated with their level of internet service.
“I’ve talked to rural restaurant owners that have to wait several minutes to run credit cards because their internet is so slow,” Grant said. “I’ve talked to technology workers that can’t join Zoom meetings or download files because their bandwidth needs outpace their service. Students are learning from cars so they can connect to wifi hotspots in parking lots. And some residents have no reliable internet options or simply can’t afford the one choice available to them. Our students and businesses cannot stay competitive when we let infrastructure fall behind this significantly.”
Grant said 15 other PUDs across the state responded to infrastructure gaps like this by installing open-access fiber optic infrastructure, a process that started 20 years ago. She said it’s disappointing that the PUD has missed out on millions of dollars of grants that other PUDs have won to build these kinds of infrastructures. Fiber optics are considered future-proof, Grant said, and Whatcom is behind most other developed countries.
Water rights challenges are another issue the PUD faces, Grant said, and the PUD can play an important role in supporting the agricultural community while maintaining a healthy economy and Nooksack River.
Grant said she intends to build last-mile broadband infrastructure across the county if she is elected to the PUD using a wide range of grants and financing tools available to make the infrastructure a reality without requiring tax dollars.
She also intends to create clean-energy jobs using the PUD’s access to clean, cheap electricity and the new fiber-optic infrastructure.
“Other PUDs have successfully attracted green data center developments, which can bring capital investment from $50 million to $1 billion and create many living-wage jobs,” Grant said.
The PUD is also the largest processor of water in the county, and Grant supports a feasibility study to determine how much electricity can be generated from turbines installed in PUD water pipes.
She also aims to provide water rights certainty to farmers.
“As a commissioner, I will insist that every grant/financing opportunity to help expand PUD irrigation infrastructure to our farming community is explored and, if there is a fit, pursued,” Grant said.