OKEECHOBEE — The Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners voted at its Nov. 25 meeting to approve $25,000 for a broadband internet study.
The study, which will be funded by Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act money, is the first step in gathering the data needed to apply for federal grants.
Dustin Jurman, CEO of Rapid Systems Corporation, said the broadband feasibility study will include a current, five-year and long-term needs assessment, plus an assessment of benefits and risks through improved county services including e-learing, telemedicine, leisure, EMS, law enforcement and community connections. He said every internet provider is required to report every internet connection, while not disclosing customers’ personal information.
County Board Chairman Terry Burroughs said the State of Florida has lost out on a lot of federal funding for internet improvements because they did not provide the information needed. He said the pandemic illustrated the lack of high-speed internet access in the county, with students suffering due to the lack of reliable access to online learning programs.
“This is the time for us as a rural county to capitalize on the forward momentum,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens. She said the county needs to provide a feasibility study to be part of the state strategic plan.
Burroughs said the Florida Association of Counties just announced ACCESS 67, an initiative to implement a comprehensive approach to empowering members to develop solutions to address the impacts of the lack of access to critical telecommunication and information technology resources in Florida communities.