The Doe Bay area of Orcas Island is loosely defined as the area east of Olga on the southeast part of Orcas. In includes the Shorewood, Sea Acres, Eagle Lake, Roehl’s Hill and Pioneer Hill neighborhoods. The area is made up of around 400 parcels, of which about 200 are developed. Not all residents are full time.
Doe Bay has a couple notable existing associations. The Doe Bay Water Users Association (DBWUA), which provides water to the area, and the Doe Bay Community Association (DBCA), which has a long history of bringing the community together at potlucks and events throughout the year, including the annual Fourth of July festivities and the Doe Bay Fire Hall.
One of the main businesses in the area is the Doe Bay Resort, which has become famous for hosting the annual Doe Bay Fest music festival each summer.
Internet access in the Doe Bay area is provided primarily via Century Link (CL) DSL. Some local ISP’s like RockIsland and OrcasOnline resell CL DSL but they still rely on CL equipment and copper phone lines in the ground. Some residents have internet via satellite, and some can get service via cell phone/LTE providers like Verizon.
There are 3 CL remotes in the area that service DSL customers. Olga, Shorewood and SeaAcres. If you are close enough to the Olga remote, which is connected upstream via fiber, you can get fairly consistent 6mb/s service. If not, and you connect via Shorewood or SeaAcres which are not fiber connected, you might get 1.5mb/s, but in the evenings you might not be able to connect at all.
The cost for CL to connect the Shorewood and SeaAcres remotes with fiber is cost prohibitive given the number of customers in the area.
Getting internet via wireless from the mainland is challenging in the area due to the local hills and trees, as well as the fact that Lumi and Cypress islands block many from line of site to wireless alternatives in Bellingham and Anacortes.
Another wireless option for those in San Juan County is at the top of Mount Constitution on Orcas. Unfortunately, the Doe Bay area does not have visibility to the towers on top of the mountain. Any cell phone reception in the area comes from Anacortes or Bellingham.
Orcas Power and Light Company (OPALCO) provides power to the area, and over the last decade has undergrounded much of it’s transmission lines as well as lines to individual homes. They have also put fiber in the ground in places so they can remote control the power grid from their offices in Eastsound. They have also started to provide internet access to some over this fiber. In February 2013 OPALCO proposed a hybrid fiber/LTE wireless system to provide high speed internet access to 90% of the county. This service would have covered the Doe Bay area, but it was not supported by enough of the OPALCO membership for the initiative to move forward.
Currently, OPALCO has fiber to the Olga substation, and plans in the future to bring this fiber all the way out to SeaAcres, but the cost to do that is likely very high due to the way OPALCO puts it’s assets into the ground.
In 2013 there were a number of major Century Link internet outages. One happened during the Fourth of July weekend, and had a major impact on the Doe Bay Resort operations at the time.
Another happened in November 2013 due to a severed cable between San Juan and Lopez which affected the entire county, took out 911 service and took many days to fix.
After this outage, OPALCO decided to start building out their fiber assets more quickly, but did not decide to go back to their original hybrid plan that was not fully supported by it’s members. Though OPALCO recently extended their fiber through Moran State Park to Olga, the Doe Bay area still looks a long way out on the horizon of OPALCO fiber upgrades.
Doe Bay Internet Users Association
In December 2013 a group of Doe Bay residents decided to look into the possibility of providing internet access to residents in the area as a member owned organization model, very much like the Doe Bay Water Users did 50+ years ago to provide water in the area.
Chris Sutton, Tony Simpson, Shawn Alexander, Tom Tillman and Chris Brems looked at a lot of different options. The initial idea was to get an upstream internet connection from a microwave provider, and from there use DSL and public wireless equipment (5ghz, 900mhz) to deliver services to homes.
After further research it was decided to just do things via wireless and not waste time or money doing anything involving Century Link or end of life DSL technology.
The following, extremely hypothetical video was presented at the January 2014 DBCA potluck.
The feedback at the potluck was very positive and the founding members decided to move forward and build out the beginnings of the system.
The founding members are working on the initial legal paperwork and bylaws, and filing with federal and state agencies. Once that is done, they will be able to open a bank account, and then start initial build out.
Step 1 is to cut down trees just to the south of the Doe Bay water tank, which will give visibility to Mount Erie and enable the upstream internet connection. This will also give visibility from the water tank to the Shorewood neighborhood as well as nearby Roehl’s Hill.
Step 2 is to install about $3,000 worth of equipment already purchased by the founders and create an initial backbone that will be able to service a few customers in Shorewood as well as Doe Bay Resort.
Initial estimates of membership connection costs are $250, and $100/month to cover upstream internet costs and payback of capital equipment costs.
Rough estimates of total capital equipment costs to service all areas of Doe Bay (including Pioneer Hill, Shorewood, Sea Area’s, and Eagle Lake) is $50,000.
We are researching various funding options from private loans to federal grants.