Escambia County Takes Next Step Toward Broadband Internet Network

April 8, 2022

Escambia County has taken the next big step toward a fiber network to provide true high speed broadband internet north of Ten Mile Road.

Thursday night, the county commission voted to accept a county broadband study by Magellan Advisors and ask them to present their findings next week. The vote also divided the county broadband project into two areas — north and south of 10 Mile Road — and committed $10 million to the northern portion from a $22 million American Rescue Plan allocation. The vote also called for a company to provide fiber internet to homes, rather than wireless as outlined in the Magellan study.

The comprehensive motion passed 4-1, with commissioner Doug Underhill against.

Escambia County will contribute $10 million, plus expected grant funds of about $5 million, for the fiber backbone network across the area north of 10 Mile Road. The $12 million remaining will go toward the area south of 10 Mile Road in the future.

The county won’t provide internet all the way to the home. Instead, they will issue a request for proposals from companies to be the internet service provider to the end user.

“‘It’s one time money,” said Commissioner Steven Barry, who has spearheaded the effort over the last couple of years. “Which is why I want to try to mitigate the risk where we are putting in a fixed amount of money that does not end up a (future) burden to our taxpayers. Once we put the dollars in, our responsibility financially is gone, and we’re not putting more at risk.”

Barry said he has meet directly with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity about grants, and having the Magellan study completed will put the county ahead of the curve in seeking state and federal dollars.

The study called for the final delivery of the internet to the end user from the fiber installation through wireless towers. Barry said based upon conversations with companies that may bid on the project,  he does not want wireless to the home. Instead, he wants direct fiber homes because wireless has a limited range and decreasing speeds away from towers.

“We share your desire to bring quality high speed broadband service to the unserved and underserved areas of northern Escambia County,” David Deliman, market vice president for Cox Gulf Coast, told the commission Thursday night. He said rather than building out a fiber network that essentially would duplicate the fiber connections to various government offices, the funds should be redirected to help bring broadband to the rural areas of Escambia County where access “is limited at best”.

Deliman said Cox is already partnering on statewide grant opportunities and would be happy to work with the county. That would make the private sector responsible for ongoing maintenance, repairs, upgrades and customer service issues.

“This will ensure much less ongoing risk to the county,” he continued. He said most Escambia County residents south of 10 Mile Road have access to Cox and about 30% of them qualify for free or reduced cost service thanks to several programs.

During the meeting, commissioners said multiple companies have expressed interest in becoming an internet service provider north of 10 Mile Road using the county backbone, which will also provide fiber internet to county facilities.

South of 10 Mile Road, the county is exploring a fiber internet buildout partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT plans a traffic operations center at Escambia County Public Safety on W Street and a fiber-based advanced traffic management system south of 10 Mile. The partnership is expected to save the county millions, including $3 million by sharing conduit across the Pensacola Bay Bridge.

The Magellan study found that almost all residents in the more northern parts of Escambia County do not have any access to the internet at the federally defined minimum broadband speed of 25/3 Mbps.

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.


18 Responses to “Escambia County Takes Next Step Toward Broadband Internet Network”

  1. David Huie Green on April 14th, 2022 12:43 pm

    As presented, it seems like a poor solution.

    We shall spend and then see.

  2. mnon on April 10th, 2022 11:01 am

    Frontier is about the only viable option out here. I’ve used Frontier for 30 years, for a period up to 12 lines for BBS in early-mid 90s, back before cable and when most everyone was 24.4k modems and the fastest internet was DSL at 1mbps in Pensacola. Back then your internet was just your normal phone bill and whatever you paid an ISP, only a few at first but by end of the 90s there was one on every corner. You could pick and choose good rates vs speed and access etc. Soon as Frontier got DSL in and you could only get it through them the prices have gone up and up every single year. It took them a decade to get DSL in after cable internet was the standard. Even then it was only 1mbps down and 256k up if lucky. That was until almost 2012!!! A Decade after cable was the standard. Now fiber is the standard a 1gbps down. No cable company will run 6 miles to a community for us to get cable. Satellite internet stinks as well. I’m hopeful for Starlink, but once they oversell it like Frontier has done then it will be just another up and down, packet losing wireless provider. We are paying $110+ for 12mbps down and 1mbps up through Frontier .. it should be criminal. That is a fraction of the speeds a $110 internet cost vs speed should be.

    As for the commenter on us living in the country for a simple life. That is true but internet is now a utility, if you don’t think so you are sadly mistaken and most of us due to covid must work from home to put food on the table. Most any work at home internet job requires a land line, 4mbps upload or better and 720p video at 30fps which is standard for video. 720p 30fps requires at minimum 3mbps upload. Frontier gets 1mbps upload so there goes 98% of the work from home jobs. Just because we live in the country doesn’t mean our utility should suffer or our effectiveness at keeping a job and I’m sorry go do your research before making some sideways comment just proves your ignorance on the topic.

  3. Gerald DeBari on April 9th, 2022 3:06 am

    I agree that fiber optics access would be great. However, I disagree with some of the comments about the problems with Cox. I was suckered into changing from Cox to AT&T’s satellite a couple years ago. Their customer service was the worst I have ever encountered. If it was any worse, it would have been negative. It was already at zero. I paid a penalty to get out of the two year contract and return to Cox. I have had no complaints with customer service since I returned to Cox. I do agree that the price at Cox is quite high. I am NOT an employee of Cox. In fact I am a retired Computer Specialist and never worked for any internet/cable company.

  4. Isaiah on April 8th, 2022 8:49 pm

    For years now we have tried to get any high speed internet access down our street. We don’t even have cable. We have been forced to use Dish or DirecTV for our Tv service. The fastest internet we’ve ever been able to get is DSL through AT&T. That’s all that’s available in our area. We’ve sent requests, we’ve sent letters, we’ve asked, begged and nothing. We did get a reply from cox cable saying that they would run cable and internet just to our house for the small fee of $50,000. Years ago they ran a fiber trunk line at the entrance to our neighborhood but would never bring it down the street. It’s so frustrating because every neighborhood around our neighborhood has access to these utilities but us. It’s would be nice to have some kind of basic high speed access to internet.

  5. David Musselwhite on April 8th, 2022 4:45 pm

    Hi. My name is David and I am the retired IT Director for Escambia County. Over the last 12 years I have worked on numerous possible solutions to bring competitive and available Internet into the County. Currently I am testing Starlink at a business in midtown Pensacola and have varying performance. Sometimes good (around 100Mbps down) and last week-end a lot of intermittent ourages (11 minutes every hour). I am afraid that if the County goes with an incumbent provider then all hope of getting truly competitive Internet here is lost. I would like some feedback on what if we could create a local broadband co-op that is “owned” by the subscribers and would obtain the middle-mile fiber rights from the County and would provide service, support, etc to the local residents. Please post your thoughts here. Thanks for your thoughtful consideration.

  6. Steve on April 8th, 2022 3:46 pm

    While I’m not opposed to this concept, how is this “one time money?” Whether the “backbone” lines are above ground or below, someone, sometime OR some storm, is going to impact that backbone. Who will be responsible for the repairs?

    Future development may require the “backbone” be moved or improved upon. Who will be responsible for that?

  7. Fence Jumper on April 8th, 2022 3:20 pm

    Just an observation but it is funny how the folks that always say that we moved to the country for a more simpler things in life now want the luxury of high speed internet but go crazy when a new dollar general wants to move up to the country.

  8. Jr on April 8th, 2022 3:09 pm

    Starlink works great @ pensacola. Have been getting 150Mbps speeds consistently with >50ms ping times. Cox goes out, ATT goes out, but for the past 3 months Starlink has been up 99%+ plus it seems Starlink is now unlocked for your area and not tied to original address. I have roamed 60+ miles from home in West Pensacola and have excellent service almost everywhere … some issues close to military bases in the area.

  9. Scott on April 8th, 2022 1:53 pm

    “Deliman said Cox is already partnering on statewide grant opportunities and would be happy to work with the county.”

    Oh Lord, please leave Cox out of it!!!

    I agree the county should make the investment and pass it on, so there is no future tax payer burden resulting from it for maintenance, upkeep, etc. However, maybe they should consider investing in alternate providers that don’t already have a monopoly and poor service. Create some competition and options in the process.

    IF it’s not possible, then there should be extremely clear caps on customer charges. I’m SURE Cox would love to get free fiber and network upgrades, and then charge for every last penny as if they paid for it.

    I’m a conservative, Republican and support capitalism, but this has “Cox takes advantage” written ALL over it, and Cox service and support is already horrid while they over charge compared to many other areas of the country.

  10. Derek on April 8th, 2022 1:29 pm

    I can’t wait to have Starlink internet from Elon Musk sometime later this year!!

  11. Linda on April 8th, 2022 12:18 pm

    I live off 95A in Molino, we may as well go back to dial up. Internet stinks up here.

  12. Concerned Citizen on April 8th, 2022 12:16 pm

    I am encouraged to hear about this badly needed initiative being taken by the county commissioners. It would be great for the north end of the county who have only satellite internet available to us. By the way AT&T has refused to replace the failing truck lines on in the North end communities so our phones go dead every time it rains Having access to fiber optic cable, high speed internet would be fantastic.

  13. Ryann on April 8th, 2022 12:01 pm

    Molino, Florida needs something better than Spectrum or Frontier.. I use Frontier, but it always drops connection. I’ve heard Spectrum is no better and cost more than Frontier. We need better service further north.

  14. FurtherNorthResident on April 8th, 2022 9:13 am

    Spectrum? Try having Frontier!! I have 1Mbps and the technician that came to my home said the company DOES NOT plan to provide anything other than that! This will be a welcome change, it/when this can be implemented. However, it needs to go WAY further North of 10 Mile Road in order to provide to all Escambia County constituents that would like the opportunity to have it.

  15. Susie on April 8th, 2022 9:10 am

    Cox Cable is the worst to deal with; never having service people, using contractors who don’t have a clue and call centers in Mexico who can’t do anything anyway. Cox is now charging 100.00 automatic (can’t be reversed) service fee. They are outrageously overcharging, as well. Willard’s Backyard Cable Service would be better than Cox.

  16. sam on April 8th, 2022 8:46 am

    will century be included in this project?

  17. Finally on April 8th, 2022 7:11 am

    It will be nice to have an option besides the monopoly that Spectrum has in several areas of Northern Escambia.

  18. Dan on April 8th, 2022 2:02 am

    I live off Gulf Beach Highway, and while we have access to Cox, we don’t have access to fibre. Is there any chance of getting real high speed internet here? East Hill have it, but this part of Escambia is slower than Gulf Breeze.