Slow speeds have plagued rural communities since the start of the internet. Now, a Darrington man has a plan to change that.
Jacob Kukuk enjoys the slower pace of life at his home in rural Snohomish County – except for one thing: the glacially slow internet speeds.
It can take more than 2 ½ hours to upload a single 10-minute video.
In response, Kukuk launched the Darrington Internet User Association, a nonprofit internet provider he says will bring 10 times faster speeds to his underserved community for just $45 per month.
Kukuk's network would pair with the Seattle Internet Exchange, the spigot essentially, from which the internet flows to Arlington. From there, service would reach people's homes through a series of wireless connection boxes.
Kukuk, a worker at Lake Washington Institute of Technology, patterned his plan after one that has been operating on Orcas Island for three years. He says the system could be operational in less than 12 months if there are no unforeseen slowdowns.
To keep costs down, things like tech support would be operated by neighborhood volunteers.
"Instead of phoning some call center and being put on hold you would call your neighbor to talk to your technician or walk down the street and see the person who works in customer service," said Kukuk.
Darrington was supposed to reach a national internet speed standard two years ago but still lags far behind. People end up having to drive half an hour to Arlington to connect.
"That's a big problem," said Ginger Castleberry, president of the Darrington Community Center Board of Trustees.
According Castleberry, substandard internet impacts everything from whether businesses open in town to how children learn.
She sees it when she volunteers in the schools.
"It's astonishing how many kids can only access the internet when they're at school or the library," she said. "They don't have dependable service at home, and that puts your behind all of the kids in other communities at age five."