Officials are working to improve Internet access in Santa Rosa County, especially in rural areas, and it appears that the Garcon Point Region will be first on the roll.
Kyle Holleythe province’s outreach and community outreach for grants and special projects, is leading efforts to improve broadband in Santa Rosa County† He told the News Journal that he plans to spend the next four weeks gathering information from service providers with the aim of applying for partnerships to improve Internet services in designated project areas.
‘Who’s in the best shape to do it? Who wants to do it? Who wants to take the opportunity to put some money into that partnership request,” said Holley. “What I’m going to ask on behalf of the county is, ‘What private company is willing to help pay in the Garcon Point area?’”
Although the plans are still in the early stages, residents in the Garcon Point area told the News Journal that any expanded broadband infrastructure would be welcome.
“There is a lot of growth here. And many people will want to work from home, or their children will need internet support. So it’s something that I think will be welcome. It will really happen,” said Sarah Abbott, a resident of Garcon Point, who moved to the county in November 2021.
Abbott also stressed that the lack of access hurts her labor productivity and frustrates her as she tries to run her home remodeling business.
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“I just didn’t have the speed or the ability to participate as fully as I needed to. So then I went to Panera or Starbucks (to use their WiFi),’ Abbott said.
Officials leading local technology teams across Florida met for the first time in March to discuss the distribution financing process over $866 million for broadband improvements and to devise strategies to build the teams, which are intended to ensure that all Floridians have high-quality Internet access.
Florida will have a strategic plan for statewide broadband this summer to be completed this summer and will work with both local technology teams and data from a statewide broadband speed test to determine which areas to prioritize.
Florida’s Office of Broadband has rolled out broadband speed testing across Florida to better identify and target 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.
Holley said he still relies on these speed tests to get current information as he coordinates with providers.
He emphasized that there are several financing options for the Garcon Point project area. He added that the northern end of the province will likely be served by a vendor through money from the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF), which limits the use of other broadband funds in the area.
Expectations for internet capabilities in the state and country are being raised, according to Holley. And he, along with Abbott, pointed to underutilized areas around Garcon Point as a good starting point to do what the county can do to meet those expectations.
“It’s like it’s been discovered. When we bought our property here, I remember several people telling us when we brought them here, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this was here,’ said Abbott. “Because when you go down (big roads here) it’s very undeveloped along those roads. But if you take a side road and go to the water, you see that many houses have been built.”
There are several other project areas that Holley is sad about, including those around East Milton and Pace.