Internet services to expand in rural areas

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The county Board of Supervisors heard from Steven Sandy, director of planning and community development for the county, who detailed what the authority could do in terms of internet service.

According to Sandy, the authority could develop a system to provide internet services throughout the county, manage properties that are already in contracts with third party providers and borrow and loan money for the purposes of providing services.

“You can actually manage property and go into contracts with local providers in the area that are operating in the county already,” Sandy told the board, which convened the public meeting 30 minutes late Tuesday night.

If the authority wasn’t going to be established, Sandy said the board could not participate in marketing of private-sector broadband services.

Sandy noted board members have said they want to provide internet services throughout the county and to be part of the negotiations with the providers. The board also wants to provide some of the existing county assets, such as towers, buildings and land as a resource to internet providers, according to Sandy.

As an authority, Sandy said the entity can also set aside money to work on a particular part of the county each year.

“This model that was established will give the authority an opportunity to work with internet providers and help get broadband services and cellular internet to areas of the county that need it that are not served by the private sector,” Sandy said, “whether that be areas with no service first or weak service first.”

Sandy added that the authority can work with multiple providers.

“All of them are going to come with a price tag,” he said. “If you want 100 percent coverage in 100 percent of the county, that price tag is going to be pretty high. But if you’re willing to settle for 80, 95 percent in certain areas, all of that is part of the negotiation process.”

He added that among public safety, the planning board and the administrative office, more manpower will not be needed going forward.

Board member Leland Mitchell moved for the approval of the authority, which was approved unanimously.

“I think this will be a really big plus for the county,” Mitchell said. “It’s a plus that we’ll be able to negotiate and try to work out the services and costs.”