​Delivering power in a reliable, resilient, and secure manner requires WAPA to maintain robust transmission system communications. During the past 20 years, WAPA has installed approximately 5,000 miles of overhead fiber optic ground wire (OPGW) on its transmission system. As part of its 2019 Tactical Action Plan, WAPA is focused on grid resilience and is exploring additional opportunities to increase the operational communication capabilities of its fiber assets.

In 2019, WAPA is conducting a feasibility assessment that will continue to move WAPA forward in its ongoing efforts to:

  • Improve support to customers
  • Increase communication capacity to support current and future technologies
  • Support grid resilience with the Departments of Energy and Defense

In the initial phase of this effort, WAPA is conducting a feasibility assessment that is also aligned with the American Broadband Initiative, which directs WAPA to review its fiber optic facilities and fiber partnerships.

Why conduct an assessment?

An assessment is being conducted as part of prudent business practice to continue identifying opportunities to increase WAPA’s capacity and capability of its fiber optic communications. This assessment will address WAPA’s future need for fiber capacity, maintenance of fiber infrastructure, and potential opportunities and issues of expanded participation in fiber sharing agreements.

Historically, WAPA has strategically entered fiber partnerships when it has made good business sense and promoted operational effectiveness. A number of existing power customers and others now seek partnering agreements to access WAPA’s fiber system to improve utility communications and broadband service.  This assessment is an opportunity to update and standardize WAPA fiber partnership policies that facilitate expanding WAPA’s fiber footprint in a manner that fits within WAPA’s mission and focuses on protecting customer investments.


As a federal power marketing administration, WAPA operates to serve its customers. WAPA manages its many requirements as a federal entity with the needs of its stakeholders to provide reliable, cost-based hydropower to customers who, in turn, serve millions of Americans. Therefore, as with any large initiative, WAPA has developed an outreach plan to gain customer insight.

WAPA will host a variety of forums for customers to ask questions, identify issues, express interest and voice concerns. These forums will range from in-person meetings across the regions to conference calls. The input will be carefully considered to help shape WAPA’s future plans.


Past meetings

May 20: Fiber Working Group​

July through August customer outreach: Regional Fiber Optic Partnerships presentation (PDF)



What are you planning to do with the fiber?
WAPA has and will continue to maintain sufficient amounts of reserved dark fiber for communication and power system reliability purposes. Currently, WAPA is conducting a feasibility assessment due later this year following in accordance with the American Broadband Initiative.

When is the assessment due?
WAPA sent DOE its plan for conducting the feasibility assessment in April 2019. The final feasibility assessment is due to DOE in December 2019.

What is the May 20 meeting about? 
In late 2018, WAPA established an internal team to assess WAPA’s existing fiber and future needs. Customers who previously asked about fiber partnerships were encouraged to contact WAPA if they wanted to be part of the fiber discussions. This invitational small-workgroup honors those early requests. We will hold additional customer meetings this summer to collect more customer insight that will be included in the final feasibility assessment.

Does this mean you are getting into the broadband business?
No, that is outside the scope of this feasibility assessment. This study is a comprehensive review to identify and discuss opportunities and barriers associated with different partnership types, as well as to document gaps in WAPA’s fiber network. However, WAPA plans to continue maintaining sufficient reserve fiber for communication and power system reliability purposes.

What does the American Broadband Initiative say about WAPA fiber?
The initiative says WAPA and SWPA will complete a feasibility assessment plan about leasing DOE unallocated fiber. The assessment itself is scheduled for completion in December 2019. We are supporting this effort and we are committed to protecting customer investments.

How will fiber partnership impact my rate?
There will be no impact to firm electric service or transmission rates. WAPA is committed to the principle that “beneficiary pays.”  Those who benefit from any partnership opportunity will be the ones who pay.

Does this effort exceed your authority?
As part of the American Broadband Initiative, this feasibility assessment is an opportunity to see what we can and cannot do, including what falls within WAPA’s authority. It allows us to take a fresh look at mutually beneficial partnerships for leveraging fiber assets that have the potential to improve the reliability of the grid and increase communication capabilities.


Kirsten McClure, Fiber Assessment Project Manager, FiberOpticPartnerships@WAPA.GOV

Last modified on April 24th, 2024