County hears broadband feasibility study

Expanding broadband internet service is still an ongoing effort in Franklin County.

Daniel R. Mellot, of Sain Associates, gave a presentation about the company’s completed broadband feasibility study during the Franklin County Commission’s Feb. 13 work session. He said the mission of the study was to “determine the feasibility of and develop a plan to provide broadband internet service to as many citizens of Franklin County as possible.” He said the broadband data was collected and developed by Sain Associates, after which they created the broadband feasibility study.

OBJECTIVES FOR THE STUDY

Mellot reported the following objectives for the study:

  • Define clear broadband coverage goals and benchmarks.
  • Document existing broadband infrastructure and coverage areas.
  • Develop a plan for addressing gaps in broadband service.
  • Develop short and long-term recommendations.
  • Compile information needed to apply for grand and/or funding.

BROADBAND GOALS

He stated broadband goals include evaluation and understanding of existing broadband infrastructure conditions, as well as evaluation of public opinion of existing broadband services and interest in expanding capabilities.

Mellot said additional goals including making at least one broadband Internet service provider available to 75 percent of the county; making at least two broadband Internet service providers available to 25 percent of the county; and creating competition amongst internet providers to benefit customers with better service and lower prices.

EXISTING CONDITIONS

He said existing conditions include 76.7 percent of the county being unserved by any broadband provider; 21.4 percent being underserved, having one provider; and 69.9 percent of the property in the county being uninhabited.

COMMUNITY BROADBAND SURVEY

Mellot said the community broadband survey conducted asked about address and level of service feedback, as well as including an internet speed test for each location and documenting broadband availability.

In addition to the survey, the company obtained GIS data from the revenue commissioner’s office and the Board of Education.

MAJOR INTERIM UPDATE

Mellot reported a “major interim update,” stating Freedom Fiber is continuing to expand in the eastern and southern portions of the county, providing fiber service to many areas that had been originally shown as unserved.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Mellot listed the following recommendations:

  • Develop major fiber backbone along Highway 24 from Red Bay to Russellville.
  • Extend fiber service from existing and proposed fiber backbones along laterals to higher concentrations of the population.
  • Extend cable service from existing and proposed cable infrastructure along laterals to higher concentrations of population.

He listed the following conclusions:

  • Based on data collected, it appears feasible to meet or get close to the goal of supplying at least one internet provider to 75 percent of the county.
  • Supplying at least two Internet providers to 25 percent of the county might not be practical at this time.
  • Because of cost constraints, remoteness of population and population density, it is recommended the county focus on singleprovider service to as many people as possible.

“This was an informative and necessary part of this process for moving forward,” said County Commissioner Joseph Baldwin. “I’m excited for Franklin County to be able to offer this type of opportunity to our residents.”

Commission Chairman Barry Moore said the commission is now “waiting to get a template for a Request for Proposal.”

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