Escambia County To Consider Broadband Internet Network; Thousands Would Get Access To True High Speeds

January 15, 2021

Escambia County will explore the financial feasibility of a countywide broadband network following a study that found the county has large broadband internet gaps.

A recent Magellan Advisors assessment found that almost all resident 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.

In a nonbinding straw vote of county commissioners at a Thursday workshop, commissioners decided to reserve $650,000 in CARES Act funding for design engineering, detailed business and financial planning, and grant services and applications in the first step toward a county broadband network. It essentially will create a plan for moving forward if commissioners determine the network is financially feasible. Commissioners must ratify the vote during a regular meeting next week.

The study identified about 3,000 under 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 at an estimated cost of $79 per month for a speed of 150/50 Mbps. Additional fiber connections up to a symmetrical 1 Gigabit would also become available.

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

NorthEscambia.com will offer continuing coverage of the broadband project.

Escambia County provided the following additional information about results of the broadband study:

Northern Escambia County
In the rural northern portion of the county most communities lack access to true broadband services. Broadband is defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) as 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload. Nearly all communities in Northern Escambia lack access to broadband speeds that meet this standard. Northern Escambia County faces the dual challenges of many rural areas: high per capita cost to build network infrastructure and low capacity to pay for service. Consequently, the area is simply not an attractive market for most private sector service providers. Most companies will not invest what is needed to provide broadband services because they simply cannot make adequate profits. These parts of Escambia County are not an economically feasible location for most private, for-profit internet service providers.

Southern Escambia County
In Southern Escambia County broadband speeds are greater due to increased density and the population center of Pensacola, but competition is lacking. Many locations are limited to two choices of providers with only one that meets true broadband speeds. Additionally, as providers have improved their speeds utilizing new technology, the infrastructure they deliver these services on are aging leaving the services unreliable and susceptible to outages and slowdowns.

Impact
The current broadband environment in Escambia County has direct impacts on its citizens’ and businesses’ abilities to compete for economic development opportunities, gain access to online education and health care, and participate in the same quality of life afforded to residents in communities with affordable, reliable and accessible broadband. With the right plan and phased investments Escambia County has the ability to change the market equation so it is more attractive for private companies to invest and provide services, while also reducing its telecommunications spend, providing better connectivity to community buildings, providing a platform for Smart City applications and delivering redundancy for other public networks and stakeholders.

About Fiber Networks
Over 3,000 communities in the US have invested in fiber networks to support internal and community needs. In doing so, they have been able to expand this fiber to support other internal and community needs, from connecting county and city facilities, to providing fiber access to schools, to connecting traffic signals, streetlights and public safety cameras. In some cases, municipalities and county governments have expanded their fiber to increase access to high-speed internet services in areas where existing broadband services do not meet one of the four dimensions of internet service, which include speed, reliability, customer service and/or affordability.

Benefits to the Residents

  • 1 Gigabit & 150 Megabit Internet for 3,000 Underserved Residents and Businesses
  • Symmetrical Service County & Businesses — Same Upload & Download
  • Locally Owned and Operated — Speeds from 1 Gig to 10 GIG
  • Fully Redundant System with 99.999% uptime. No Throttling or Data Caps
  • Dollars Stay Local, Reinvested in Community

Benefits to the Community

  • Economic development has been a major beneficiary of this strategy as the small and medium business sectors are generally the largest contributor to the economy yet are challenged to find affordable high-speed internet services.
  • Education — Provide futureproofed connectivity to all students/schools
  • Healthcare — Support telehealth needs of residents and providers
  • Transportation and housing
  • Some communities have crafted their own policies to consider internet access a utility, similar to electric and water. In doing so, these communities have built their broadband networks to reach all citizens and businesses in their jurisdictions.
  • Support future capabilities and reduce operating costs
  • Self-Determination — Control over the future of Escambia’s connectedness

Implementation

Communities have used differing techniques to expand broadband, from making fiber available to local providers, to developing public-private partnerships, to delivering high-speed internet services themselves. Each community must decide for itself the role it wants to play in broadband, depending on its unique issues, available funding, tolerance for risk, capabilities to compete and desire for overall control. About 500 municipal utilities, cities and cooperatives play a role in expanding broadband within their communities today.

Comments

25 Responses to “Escambia County To Consider Broadband Internet Network; Thousands Would Get Access To True High Speeds”

  1. Country Momma on January 19th, 2021 6:16 am

    @Dave Coleson- I live “in the sticks,” and when our government shut down the state, am I not supposed to have the opportunity to work because of where I choose to live? Are my children not supposed to have the opportunity for education? I didn’t ask for my employer to force people to work from home; the powers that be did that. Trust me. We don’t have the conveniences of the “city life,” no food deliveries, groceries deliveries, heck, I’m lucky if FedEx can locate my house. Still, those city lights have nothing on our country nights – I wouldn’t want it any other way. Dave, stay a yuppie!

  2. Alex on January 18th, 2021 12:59 am

    Waste of money and that $650k isn’t going to go very far.
    Starlink is in widespread beta testing and it works very well… It would be cheaper and more efficient to offer a subsidy for those to buy the equipment and then be on the hook for the Starlink monthly cost. People would ONLY be subsidized if they have no other service available. They would still have to pay for roughy 2/3rds of the cost of the SL equipment.

  3. EMD on January 16th, 2021 6:28 pm

    Enon/Bay Springs area gets NO signal.

  4. Demas on January 16th, 2021 11:58 am

    I live in a rural area where internet access has basically one provider. We have one traffic light within about 10 miles; there are no fast food shops.

    I use my phone as a hotspot for internet access. I get two lines for about what the county is proposing as a cost for this service. The hotspot speed is less than the current provider offers in the north end of the county yet I can stream to the device that is connected to my phone (pc, tv, etc.) and still use my phone for other tasks.

  5. David Huie Green on January 16th, 2021 10:49 am

    REGARDING:
    “For those of you in the northern rural parts of the county: guess what: you CHOSE to live there and what did you think the internet would be when you live in the woods?”

    Correction: We CHOOSE. It was not a choice we made back in the Dark Ages and have regretted ever since. It is a choice we have settled in our minds until something even better comes along. So far, to our way of thinking, nothing else comes close.

    That doesn’t mean our lives can not be even better, that we shouldn’t be allowed to have paved roads, emergency services, schools, even shoes (at least on Sunday) and internet. The world is changing and we are part of the world.

    David for an even better world

  6. David Huie Green on January 16th, 2021 10:30 am

    REGARDING:
    “Internet access should be a public utility and cost everyone in the county $79 per year.”

    That would be silly. (Not that I wouldn’t jump on it if available right now at that rate.)

    What if someone figured out a way to provide it for $10 or even free?
    (And someone probably will.)

    David for better futures

  7. Henry W Coe on January 16th, 2021 6:22 am

    Internet access should be a public utility and cost everyone in the county $79 per year.

  8. Demas on January 16th, 2021 12:55 am

    Folks this is basic economics. The cost to provide high speed internet service, phone service or any other similar service is higher on a per household basis in areas where the population density is lower and the distance to necessary infrastructure is greater.

    The north end of the county has a lower population density and each household is farther from necessary infrastructure than those in the more southern portions of the county.

    If companies like Cox could provide the service at competitive rates and make a profit, they would.

    There are many advantages to living in an area with a lower population density. Less traffic, noise, more privacy, etc. There are also disadvantages. Apparently slower internet speeds and fewer internet providers are two of them.

  9. Bigblock345 on January 15th, 2021 9:26 pm

    No, people like David Coleson need to stay in the cities. We do not need their kind in the country. Condescending, lacking compassion or understanding.

  10. Dave is right on January 15th, 2021 1:17 pm

    I’d love to live on acres of land in rural escambia for cheaper than I pay for my tiny quarter acre lot that’s within farting distance of my neighbor’s house, but I won’t because there’s no internet, much less sewer. This is called a choice, and everyone has a choice.

  11. hawk on January 15th, 2021 12:35 pm

    @David Coleson, At least when I spit it doesn’t land in my neighbor’s yard. I can sit on my back and hear total silence. I can, on a warm spring’s night listen to the chuck-wills-widow search for a mate. Listen to the owls talk. And watch the lightning bugs light up the woods. My neighbors are down to earth good people and would help me and others without being asked and would be insulted if you offered to pay. True, like dogs in the city I have animals pooping in yard, such as fox, deer, bobcats and such and it is ok if their owner does not pick up after them. The churches are small up here “in the country”, but overflow with people with big loving hearts. My hope is that you have a chance one day to experience the infinite joy and pleasures of country life.

  12. David on January 15th, 2021 12:21 pm

    @ Hmmm
    I agree 100%..but a person to try and validate the issue by saying you knew about it when you moved out here”..needs to grow up .
    Where you move is not dictated by if you do or do not have it.
    Many cant even afford anything but what they have.

  13. Kane on January 15th, 2021 11:41 am

    Yeah don’t hold your breath for that starlink either lol. I pay almost 300.00 a month for gigabit service from Cox because they have Zero competition (yeah I know there are other internet companies but I prefer internet that doesn’t go out on a cloudy day) it would be great if they could explore providing high speed internet at reasonable rates for the entire county.

    As far as frontier is concerned they don’t have the money to run a better network who do you think they are cox? (this is a joke it’s okay to laugh)

  14. Hmmm on January 15th, 2021 11:27 am

    @David Coleson I know you are probably trolling, but a large percentage of people who live up here were here before the internet ever came along. The north end of Escambia county is barely even considered rural compared to a large percentage of the U.S. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn’t be able to have high-speed internet. It all boils down to Frontier is a low-budget, predatory company that buys out small telephone companies for cheap and then runs them into the ground. They have no competition, so they can charge exorbitant amounts for horrible service and there’s nothing we can do about it.

    I really hope this system gets put in place. It would be a huge benefit to the north-end residents and businesses.

  15. Starlink Internet Coming Soon on January 15th, 2021 11:11 am

    The new satellite company Starlink being launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company will be coming online this year. This service will be available everywhere on earth., that included BFE Escambia rural areas. There is no need to spend our Cares money on this when privately funded commercial options coming available soon. Do your research. Waiting for amenities and modern utilities is part of living in rural areas.

  16. David on January 15th, 2021 10:13 am

    @ Dave Coleson
    Hey slick…you have a car or truck…sell them and buy you a horse and buggy. That’s the way it was. You stay in the past and we will do well without your hypocrisy!
    Turn your electricity off too…buy you some kerosene lanterns…use to work fine..why did you get electricity? Oh…you want people to think as you do.
    You have to be a distraught person seeing the world evolve.

  17. William Reynolds on January 15th, 2021 9:57 am

    “$79 a month for only 150/50 mbps, it’s a freaking joke that we are being run ragged by internet companies. Literally thousands of customers in escambia county already who pay $60 for 1000mbps.”

    Frontier…the telco…in North Escambia costs in excess of $100 a month for speeds that range from 1-18 Mbps. Residents don’t have access to higher speeds.

  18. Pipe Dream on January 15th, 2021 9:41 am

    “Escambia County will explore the financial feasibility of a countywide broadband network following a study that found the county has large broadband internet gaps.”…

    Cool your jets. Key words: “Explore. financial feasibility” Just saying

  19. South County on January 15th, 2021 9:21 am

    Will it be reliable?? I live in south county and you can not call anything you can get in my neighborhood reliable by a long shot. I have tried any provider that offers it and the best I can get is 80% of the time working. If you talking speed no company gets the speed they advance. I have given up and use my phone it stinks but it works 100% of the time.

  20. J on January 15th, 2021 9:21 am

    Seriously? $79 a month for only 150/50 mbps, it’s a freaking joke that we are being run ragged by internet companies. Literally thousands of customers in escambia county already who pay $60 for 1000mbps.

  21. Dave Coleson on January 15th, 2021 8:49 am

    For those of you in the northern rural parts of the county: guess what: you CHOSE to live there and what did you think the internet would be when you live in the woods? LOL

    Get a grip

  22. Bama54 on January 15th, 2021 8:36 am

    Several years ago the Frontier office in Molino had fiber cable run to the Verizon office on 9 mile road but for some reason was abandoned. I think at the time Verizon had a financial interest but sold that interest back to Frontier. At the time, I thought it was to tie their Rural Central Offices in to the Verizon network. I guess what I’m trying to say is we’ve had the opportunity but never capitalize on the opportunity to move forward. Now companies like Verizon, AT&T are promoting their 5G networks so why not look into those avenues a along with the fiber. Maybe work up a plan to run fiber cables to cell towers might be more cost affective. Just my thought!!!

  23. Me on January 15th, 2021 7:57 am

    This would be great if it happens. I don’t hold my breath on it. I know many people that have frontier and I see many complain about it. My thoughts at least you have something. Most of the areas north of Molino can only get a satellite service and they are not only expensive but the service you get is also terrible! I am hopeful we will eventually see changes to the northernmost part of the county.

  24. Jan on January 15th, 2021 6:26 am

    Would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath! At least they are considering this.

  25. SRR on January 15th, 2021 3:29 am

    I’m probably one of the very few residents that has been online in the same location, dealing with Frontier for 30 years. I have had 12 lines ran for a BBS back in the early to mid 90s, I’ve had their dial up, their very first DSL service in the area and for the past 8 years better than 1mbps getting 12mbps (best you can get on 1 modem on their system). Though my connections have been 98% stable most the time, this has been almost a decade at those speeds. That is just download, more tech today requires a good upload as well. For a 720p conference call at 30 frame per second to look clear and sharp you need at minimum 3mbps upload. We get 1mbps upload on Frontier and it doesn’t matter if you get their bonded service. Sure it doubles your 12mbps download to 24mbps but your upload remains 1mbps. That is garbage by today’s standards.

    Frontier techs care because they hear it from us “We need better speeds!” but Frontier as a company can could care less. They keep a network at bare speeds for its era, charge triple the price for those speeds. My bill runs $100ish a month for 12mbps downloads, while my buddy in Pensacola on Cox (yes Cox is no better really) but only pays $80 for 1000mbps… that is their Gigablast thing. So you guys do the math.

    Problem is Frontier has no competition in remotely rural areas. I know Molino has cable but I hear issues with it. Thing is they will not run cable to these outlining areas because there is no money in it for them. When you must run 15 miles of cable only servicing a couple homes before getting to a community area, there is just no profit in it.

    We need another stable, high speed alternative. Technology is advancing to where we need more bandwidth to keep up. As it is we are 20 years behind the technology curve in our high speed communication.

    I just hope they don’t over-sell it like Frontier has done with their DSL. That is why you notice at 6pm until roughly 11pm your internet will lag hard sometimes. We are sharing the same connection in each community. You connect more people than the pipe can handle people randomly lose the full bandwidth.

    Yet we still pay 3x what it is worth because what else is there?





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