More than $19.5 million from the state will be going towards improving broadband in underserved parts of Gulf and surrounding counties.
According to a release from Governor Ron DeSantis’ office, the funds will be used to add 1500.28 miles of fiber optic cable to provide 2,145 unserved locations within Bay, Calhoun, Gulf and Washington counties with symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1GB.
The funding came as a welcome surprise to county officials, who said that they were unaware that the applicant, internet provider Conexon Connect, had submitted the project.
“We weren’t aware that this company applied, but I am working with them, trying to meet with them this week,” said the County’s Grant Administrator Erin Kennedy at the Board of County Commissioners’ July 18 meeting.
The projects represents some of more than $247 million awarded through the Broadband Infrastructure Program two weeks ago, connecting more than 59,000 unserved and underserved businesses, homes, farms and anchor institutions like hospitals and libraries to high-speed Internet.
According to the governor’s office, infrastructure deployment through 63 strategic projects in 43 Florida counties ensures that Florida residents have reliable and efficient access to workforce, education and health monitoring opportunities for generations to come.
“High-speed broadband Internet is important infrastructure for Florida communities and will generate economic development activity and a talented labor force,” said Governor Ron DeSantis in a press release. “Florida is proud to make investments in broadband Internet infrastructure that will benefit all Floridians and make long-term impacts in communities across the state.”
These awards are in addition to more than $226 million in Broadband Opportunity Grant Funding already awarded to 53 counties awards to expand broadband Internet access to unserved areas across the state. Additional funding will become available this year through new and existing programs.
Unserved and underserved communities have feen the focus of the state’s broadband infrastructure policy up until this point, according to Kennedy, who said the county had prioritized these areas in their applications to the broadband infrastructure grant program.
“Unserved and underserved have been the focus of the grant applications lately,” she said. “Unserved means that there’s no internet provider. Underserved means that it doesn’t meet certain download and upload speeds.”
Kennedy pointed out that members of the community spoke extensively about their difficulties accessing reliable internet at a workshop held by Florida Commerce in Gulf County earlier this month.
“… There was a lot of commentary on reliability of broadband in Gulf County, but there hasn’t been an application process yet that would address reliability,” she said. “It’s more about access right now.”
Kennedy said the funding received from the state will impact the Dalkeith, Overstreet, Howard Creek and Stone Mill Creek communities in Gulf County, among others.
Conexon Connect is expected to meet with the county’s Technology Planning and Implementation Team in the coming weeks to go over further details.