Escambia County Takes Next Step Toward Broadband Internet Network; Thousands Could Get True High Speed Access : NorthEscambia.com

Escambia County Takes Next Step Toward Broadband Internet Network; Thousands Could Get True High Speed Access : NorthEscambia.com

Escambia County is moving forward with plans toward a countywide broadband network following a study that found the county has large high speed internet gaps.

A late 2020 assessment by Magellan Advisors found that almost all residents in the more northern parts of Escambia County do not have any access to the internet at speeds defined as broadband by the Federal Communications Commission.

The Escambia County Commission recently voted unanimously enter into a contract with Magellan for $645,000 in CARES Act funding for design engineering, detailed business and financial planning, along with grant services and applications in a major step toward a county broadband network. It essentially will create a plan for moving forward if commissioners later determine the network is financially feasible.

“I want to thank my colleagues for continuing to support the expansion of broadband internet into the unserved, as well as the underserved areas of Escambia County,” District 5 Commissioner Steven Barry said. “Even though the franchising and licensing of cable and internet companies is not an Escambia County government right or responsibility, I have thousands of constituents whose quality of life, work and education is negatively impacted by the quality of their internet connection, so it is a huge priority of mine.

The earlier study identified about 3,000 underserved or unserved residents without access to true broadband in North Escambia. After the planning, the next step in the project outlined by Magellan Advisors would be a fiber based wireless network in North Escambia in areas from Molino north (pictured above). That move would take additional action by the commission in coming months.

The Wi-Fi type network would immediately offer high speed internet to 3,000 underserved North Escambia residents Costs have been initially estimated at $79 per month for a speed of 150/50 Mbps. Additional fiber connections up to a symmetrical (same upload and download speed) 1 Gigabit would also become available.

None of those North Escambia residents currently have access to the federally defined minimum broadband speed of 25/3 Mbps.

“While I do not know exactly what the solution looks like yet, I am confident that we are going to put something together that will work well for all of Escambia County, especially District 5,” Barry told NorthEscambia.com. “It is the type of project which can truly change people’s lives forever.”

Magellan Advisors of Denver, Colorado, was selected from five submitted. The company has done similar work in Florida for 25 governmental clients including Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Seminole County.

The company estimates it will take about five months to deliver a final design and road map, including a business plan, engineering design and deployment road map.