Franklin County received a $20,000 Telecommunication Planning grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development. In November, the county hired consulting firm Design Nine to serve as the county’s broadband consultant and tasked the company with creating a broadband master plan.
Franklin County Director of Planning Steve Sandy said Design Nine is creating a strategy for where to get broadband next, where to invest funds and where to seek grant money.
“Franklin County is unique,” Sandy said. “Topographically, the western part of the county is very different than the lake. There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Andrew Cohill, president of Design Nine, said at the March 13 Franklin Connects event that having equal upload and download speeds is important, especially if for those who work from home. Federal guidelines state that 25 megabytes per second, or Mbps, download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed is the norm. Those who have 10 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload are underserved.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, general internet browsing and email use requires a minimum download speed of 1 Mbps. Streaming standard definition video uses 3 Mbps to 4 Mbps while streaming high definition, or HD, video requires a minimum speed of 5 Mbps to 8 Mbps. More and more streaming apps like Netflix and Hulu are pushing the HD connection as TV technology evolves and now there is Ultra HD 4K video which required a minimum of 25 Mbps to stream.
It’s because technology has come along so fast that Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, said the state is encouraging public-private partnerships to get broadband to communities more economically. Internet does not fall under public utilities and by the time the government would get the infrastructure together to make it one, all the work that went into it would be obsolete, he said.
Sandy said approximately 600 households in the Snow Creek area may receive internet service via a fixed wireless solution. Fixed wireless provides broadband internet to a single location through radio waves instead of phone or cable lines. It operates much like a satellite service because it requires a dish or antenna via a wireless internet service provider.
Meanwhile, the county also is working to obtain funding for fiber optic internet through the state Tobacco Commission. Summit View Business Park and some subdivisions would be prioritized to receive the service.
Many areas of Franklin County still are underserved when it comes to the internet. Fixed wireless solutions not only require satellites, which don’t work in every area, but also utilize community poles, which are half the height of traditional towers. Cohill said fiber optic is good for 50 years. Fiber optic is known for longevity as well as handling faster internet speeds. It seems there should be a way to get fiber optic to more places than just in the business park.
With a third of the county without internet, something has to be done and quickly.