Santa Rosa County staff plans next week to encourage all Santa Rosa County residents to take a broadband speed test, which could help underserved areas get better internet service.
Simultaneously, Kyle Holley, the county’s Outreach and Community Liaison Manager for Grants and Special Projects, is working to help organize a local technology team with members from the public and private sectors to create cohesion in the improvement of Internet service.
The team so far includes representatives from the county, school district, library system, Mediacom and AT&T.
Holley told the News Journal in an email that there had also been outreach to bring in representatives from areas including tourism, healthcare, retail and residential development.
“I guess this team will stick together as long as the money is there,” Adrian Lowndes, Santa Rosa County IT and GIS manager, told the News Journal. “As long as the state continues to fund broadband solutions in individual counties across the state, I imagine teams like ours will continue to stick together and be able to leverage those resources.”
Broadband in Escambia:Escambia County could create its own broadband network to boost internet speeds in the north
The Office of Broadband was established in the summer of 2020 under the state Department of Economic Opportunity. It works with local and state government agencies, community organizations, and private businesses to increase the availability and effectiveness of high-speed Internet throughout the state, especially in smaller, rural communities.
The office has rolled out broadband speed tests across Florida to better identify and reach unserved and underserved areas of the state. The resulting map will be an asset to local communities and internet service providers to aid in broadband planning efforts.
The state’s broadband strategic plan is expected to be completed by June 30, and Holley said he plans to promote a countywide campaign to encourage residents to take the broadband speed test. of the state so that all residents are accounted for while the Broadband Office takes in the data.
“I don’t think the internet is going anywhere. So I would say as long as the Office of Broadband is active and can get funding, I think our local tech team will stay intact and be in place,” Holley said. to the News Journal, adding that he hopes to see more involvement from northern parts of the county on the speed test map.
Holley stressed that anyone can take the test anytime they want, but county organized effort days will most likely take place next week.
“We can’t promote an internet test on the internet,” Holley said.
Holley spoke about the importance of using schools as one of the anchors for this project, and David Hicks, who oversees IT services in the school district, said he and the district have a lot to offer. after starting to explore ways to ensure high-performance Internet access. for students once the coronavirus pandemic began to affect school procedures.
“As far as what I would bring to the table, when we first got the COVID funds, and we sort of play, ‘what were we supposed to do?’ we seriously considered setting up our own LTE (cellular) network in some rural areas,” Hicks said.
Currently, less than 1% of Santa Rosa residents have passed the speed test, but Holley said the goal is to increase that number to nearly 10%. He added that he was excited about the early numbers in the county, but stressed the importance of building community engagement to have better data.
“I think we’re not really going to get an accurate picture unless we push this (test) and engage our community members to really try to help us through this process,” Hicks said.
Lowndes said the idea of working with private service providers is still a very new concept to him, but said his goal is to help ensure the community gets the access it needs.
“Part of our mission statement with the county is to serve our community and to serve it with excellence. And, as part of that, we have those areas in the county that need broadband, and so to help facilitate that – it’s always part of my job and I’m going to do my best,” Lowndes said.
The local technical team includes
- David Hicks, Santa Rosa County District Schools Assistant Superintendent for Information Technology Services
- Adrian Lowndes, Santa Rosa County IT and GIS Manager
- Jane Debellis, IT Coordinator for the Santa Rosa County Library System
- Jason Christopherson, Senior Director of Operations at Mediacom
- Eddie Thompson, regional manager at AT&T