Local News

LOCAL NEWS: Rural Internet series: Clatkanie internet Co-op aims to fill rural broadband gaps

Most rural Clatsop County customers don’t know it, but there’s a huge fiberoptic internet highway running through their region. They wouldn’t think so, because their own internet service is probably slow, expensive and limited. They often can’t tap into this pipeline, because companies that own it, like Centurylink, don’t think it’s worth the money to install the infrastructure to serve the isolated hamlets and neighborhoods outside urban areas. So the bandwidth breezes by on underground cables where they can’t use it. Joanne Rideout takes a look at a local Oregon internet provider in Clatskanie that’s aiming to change that.

Footnote: To find our more about this company’s take on local internet access, go online to That’s A-L-T-H-E-A dot net. The Clatskanie Coop is on Facebook.

Deborah Simpier is CEO of, and project manager for the Clatskanie Co-op, a member owned cooperative based in Clatskanie, Oregon. Althea is the name of the software platform that supports this company’s interesting angle on rural internet service, provided through a network of antennas, that allow the broadband signal to be transmitted from house to house, or business to business, in a rural area that doesn’t have cable access.

Here’s Deborah Simpier.

“So I think it’s important to understand that the internet is essentially a series of tubes. And there are places where the internet is very inexpensive and plentiful, right that the sort of interconnects the data centers and along the main fiber backbones right. Internet there can be very inexpensive and it’s actually underutilized. Its getting that infrastructure into the rural and kind of disparate areas where that’s where the majority of the cost and capacity comes in.”

It costs more than they would make back in new customer revenue for big companies like Centurylink to build out the infrastructure in rural areas, but the internet is there, in underground cables. So The Clatskanie Co-op aims to tap into that existing system. Simpier called it the Middle Mile. Middle-mile connections create links between major broadband transmission lines (the internet “backbone”) and local networks.

Simpier says even satellite internet providers are finding themselves strapped for bandwidth in the current pandemic, with expensive satellites maxed out and the need for fast internet increasing.

Currently, the Clatskanie Co-op has installed a central connection to the internet highway at the Knappa Market on Hwy 30, about 15 miles east of Astoria on Hwy 30. That allows them to connect customers in this hilly, rural area, by jumping the signal from one household to another, using antennas.

“They install an antenna that’s about the size of a dinner plate or a bit larger platter, it’s much smaller than a satellite dish. And that just gets mounted to like the fascia board of your house. And then if you’re what they call those relays that you’re spreading the signal further, you might just have an extra antenna that points the signal toward your neighbors. So the hardware is still fairly minimal.”

Simpier said download speeds can be 50 to 100 mbps and upload speeds about 3. The system is encrypted so that even though neighbors may be sharing a signal, they can’t see each other’s information. Customers can expect to pay about $40 a month for access, depending on how much data they use.

She said the Clatskanie co-op saw the need to provide rural connectivity. Their business model relies on neighbors joining together in a local network to make service possible for all of them.

“Our model is very focused on leveraging community assets, whether that’s, you know, people’s private property, or even just the human resources of you know, coordinating and talking to one another. And that’s kind of the key indicator of success. You have somebody as a kind of catalyst that helps bring you know the human people together, because at the end of the day, it takes human beings to do things.”

Currently the Clatskanie Co-op has about 20 customers in the Knappa Brownsmead area, and 135 households preregistered. They’re looking to expand into other areas of rural Clatsop County and in Columbia County, where Clastkanie is located. has been around since 2018, and has internet networks in North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Tennessee and soon, Montana. They also provide internet access in other countries, like Nigeria and Ghana. I’m Joanne Rideout in Astoria.