Nearly 30% of the population of Victoria does not have a regular internet service subscription, Assistant City Manager Darrek Ferrell said Tuesday.
And a quarter of Victoria’s population has no access at all, whether it’s a pay as you go plan, a smartphone plan or even a dial-up connection, Ferrell said.
Thankfully, the Victoria Broadband Commission, which is made up of representatives from several local entities, is soliciting proposals for a development partner to promote internet use through the “provision of available, reliable and affordable broadband service,” Ferrell said to Victoria city council members on Tuesday.
That effort is “sorely needed,” Mayor Rawley McCoy said.
After a development partner is selected next spring, that partner would do three main things, Ferrell said.
First, the partner would evaluate Victoria’s existing capacity for connectivity, which would including conducting a demand analysis, identifying factors that contribute to a lack of connectivity and more.
“We want to know what do we have, what are we missing and what will our current infrastructure support,” Ferrell said.
The commission also wants to address challenges with internet speed, Ferrell said.
In 2015, the Federal Communications Commission set a minimum standard of 25 megabits per second for a download speed and a minimum upload speed of 3 megabits per second.
However, Ferrell said, the pandemic has made it clear that that isn’t satisfactory. For example, when a student is doing remote learning and trying participate in a full classroom while on Zoom while their parents are also working from home, “25 Mpbs is just not enough,” he said.
Second, the development partner would figure out the feasibility for an enhanced network by first determining what the community’s needs are, and then by developing a network architecture program that shows would a solution might look like.
“Is it a series of small cells broadcasting 5G? Is it a fiber ring around the city?” Ferrell asked. “What does that network look like, and what could we conceivably do for our community?”
Third, the development partner would create an implementation strategy that would include developing a business plan and identifying funding opportunities to then take action.
The commission will accept proposals for a development partner through mid-February and ultimately bring a recommendation back to the council.
“It’s exciting,” said Councilwoman Jan Scott.
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