More questions than answers in stalled broadband internet expansion
In early 2015, many rural county residents were delighted to hear of an initiative by county government to spearhead bringing high speed internet service to all county residents.
The plan, backed by the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) Connect America Fund (CAF), called for all county residents to have an internet connection speed of a minimum of 10 MB/s (megabytes per second) by the year 2020.
Discussions progressed and as part of a Lincoln County Board of Supervisors meeting last March, a presentation from representatives of Frontier Communications was rendered, as well as a timeline of “having plows in the ground” as of last year. Representatives further indicated the project would be complete by the end of this year. Frontier later amended the project timeline for a start date of Spring of 2017.
The board had expressed unanimous support for the project, passing a resolution stating; “the Lincoln County Board hereby adopts as a goal that it pursue the best possible broadband availability for the entire County in terms of speed, adoption rate, and data capacity”.
However, to date; there has been no sign of “plows” or any sign of the project at all for that matter, leaving many rural county residents upset and demanding answers.
According to Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz, the county too is seeking answers.
“It appears as if Frontier went back on what they told the county board. For whatever reason they never showed up and made no effort to communicate with us regarding the project,” he explained. “We are in the same boat as our residents who want answers, we want answers too. We expected them to keep their promise of having service for our rural residents by this summer or at least getting started this past spring, but we really have no idea now.”
On a larger scale, the CAF aims to connect 19 million unserved rural Americans nationwide, to broadband connection speeds of 10MB/s in most areas, with some areas achieving speeds as fast as 25 MB/s. The same goals apply to the project in Lincoln County. Furthermore, as part of accepting their allotment of the $115 million allocated to CAF, Frontier is required to have 40% of the project completed by the end of this year, and full completion by 2020. The project comes at zero cost to county tax payers and is 100% funded by the CAF and private investments.
According to Scholz, Frontier has been contacted regarding the matter, with a meeting set for mid-July between county and company representatives.