— OAKLAND — A study on broadband communications infrastructure found Garrett County was well served compared to other rural communities because it has more infrastructure than many parts of the rural United States, said Joanne Hovis, president of CTC Technology and Energy.
The six-month broadband study was conducted by CTC and was based on a survey of more than 1,600 residents, businesses and farms, according to a news release.
Hovis said county broadband is not on par with the metro areas.
“We are pleased to know that our broadband efforts so far have been successful and are excited about the new strategies we have for bringing even more broadband to our residents,” said Chairman Jim Raley.
The study found that an estimated 78 percent of residents, farms and businesses currently pay for Internet services, according to Hovis. Of those 78 percent that use Internet 64 percent use broadband (DSL, cable, fiber). The adoption of broadband is somewhat lower in the agricultural community.
“There is a pretty real gap between 78 percent and 64 percent, who are still using dial up,” said Hovis. “The numbers show a high level of interest for broadband.”
Some of the challenges the county faces with broadband is large unserved remote areas, relatively little competition in population centers and high pricing that prevents consumers from fully benefiting from existing networks, according to a news release.
The study also found that local entrepreneurs and wireless carriers have led recent expansion of broadband options in the county.
The study follows the county’s 2011 Economic Development Strategic plan and determines the most productive methods for the county to leverage its portion of the $115 million federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act broadband grant that the state was awarded in 2010, according to the news release. The grant will fund approximately 50 miles of fiber backbone to connect major institutions such as schools, Garrett College and government agencies. The Strategic Plan’s goal is to increase non-satellite broadband Internet availability to at least 90 percent of the residents by 2014.
“This study is an important tool for the county,” said Frank Shap, assistant director of the Department of Economic Development in the news release. “It gives us a roadmap for expanding broadband infrastructure and use, which we have long recognized as essential for economic development.”
Hovis recommended that the county consider investing in the last mile of the wireless broadband network to enable service to approximately 2,900 unserved residences. The cost of the investment would be $1.2 million, with 30 percent of subscribers utilizing the service, according to Hovis.
Hovis also recommended that middle-mile infrastructure be expanded, wire line carrier expansion for the last mile be encouraged and cost-effective commodity bandwidth be facilitated for competitive providers.
Commodity bandwidth refers to the actual bandwidth used to transverse the Internet, according to Hovis. Other recommendations in-clude creating governance structures to manage county strategies, educate county residents about broadband and pursue funding opportunities such as Appalachian Regional Commission.
CTC Technology and Energy is a public sector engineering and business consulting firm.
To view the broadband study in its entirety, visit www.garrettcounty.org.
Contact Elaine Blaisdell at email@example.com
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