BROOKVILLE — Scott Neal with Mission Critical Partners provided an update on the countywide broadband study being completed for Jefferson County Commissioners at their meeting this week, and explained how the data collection will be done in the future.
The county has contracted with Mission Critical Partners to conduct a countywide broadband planning study. This is in anticipation of future projects using the money the state has made available for broadband improvements.
“In today’s world, internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity. From the perspective of education, business, health care and life in general these days, and in rural parts of the country, which Jefferson County certainly qualifies, there has been and continues to be be a problem of haves and have-nots when it comes to access to reliable services. High-speed internet,” Neal said.
Mission Critical Partners is conducting a study in Jefferson County to determine Internet service levels and develop a plan for how to address and improve service in areas that need it. This will be done through surveys, conference calls and by Neal himself by contacting certain organizations.
“The federal government has literally made billions of dollars available to help bridge the digital divide across the county, especially in rural, unserved and underserved areas,” Neal said.
“We all understand that broadband is very important, and with the federal money coming out, Jeff, Scott and I came up with a plan, and that’s why we partnered with Scott here. And the problem is that in order for us to get that federal money, we have to have a plan in place, we have to be ahead of the curve because when that happens, everyone will want the money. So we want to be in the front line rather than the back,” Commissioner Herb Bullers said.
Neal said the company is in its infancy but will conduct surveys for data collection on internet service in the county. The survey will be available online and will be linked on the county’s website once it is ready. Neal said he hopes to have the survey online by the end of the week.
The purpose of the collection will be to determine whether a user’s Internet service meets their needs, whether they run a business, have children in school, be a health care provider or other use of Internet.
“It’s very, very important for us to determine the reality of internet service in all corners of the county,” Neal said.
The survey will only take about 10 minutes and will be as simple as possible.
“The second thing… If someone doesn’t have internet service, what’s the point of putting an internet survey online? So I will be doing conference calls as well,” Neal said.
He said there will be two or three scheduled throughout February. The dates of the calls will be announced later, as well as the telephone number to call. People will be able to call and provide information over the phone.
“The idea is to collect all the information, figure out where the underserved, and very frankly unserved, areas are, where there’s no access to reliable, affordable internet. Essentially, everyone has today access to the internet through satellite providers, but that doesn’t mean it’s good internet or it’s affordable, and that’s where we want to go in the world, everyone should have access to affordable high-speed internet,” Neal said.
The surveys will inform the company and the county as a plan is developed on how to proceed or how the county wishes to move forward with “potentially leveraging available funds to improve this internet service.
Neal will also contact school districts, health care providers, and chambers of commerce directly for information and their perspective on Internet access.
While the study doesn’t focus on cell phone service, Neal said it will reflect cell phone service based on whether someone has access to wireless broadband as their Internet source.