BROOKVILLE — Scott Neal with Mission Critical Partners in Port Matilda, Pa., gave an update on the county-wide broadband study being completed for the Jefferson County Commissioners during their meeting Tuesday morning, and explained how data collection will be done moving forward.
The county is in a contract with Mission Critical Partners to conduct a planning study of broadband services across the county. This is in anticipation of future projects using money the state has made available for broadband improvement.
“In today’s world, internet access is no longer a luxury, it’s an absolute requirement. From education, business perspectives, healthcare, and life in general these days, and in rural parts of the country, which certainly Jefferson County qualifies as, there has been and continues to be an issue of haves and have nots as far as access to reliable high speed internet,” Neal said.
Mission Critical Partners is conducting a study in Jefferson County to determine the levels of internet service, and to develop a plan on how to address and improve the service in those areas that need it. This will be done through surveys, conference calls, and by Neal himself reaching out to certain organizations.
“The federal government has made literally billions of dollars available to help bridge the digital divide across the county, especially in rural, unserved, and underserved areas,” Neal said.
“We all understand that broadband is very important, and with the federal money coming out, Jeff, Scott, and I have come up with a plan, and that’s why we partnered with Scott here. And the thing about it is, for us to get that federal money, we have to have a plan in place, we have to be ahead of the curve because when this happens, everybody’s going to want money. So we want to be on the frontline instead of behind,” said Commissioner Herb Buller.
Neal said the company is in the early phases but will be conducting surveys for data collection on internet service in the county. The survey will be available online, and will be linked on the county website once it is ready. Neal said he hopes to have the survey online by the end of the week.
The aim of the collection is going to be to determine if a user’s internet service meets their needs whether they run a business, have children in school, are a healthcare provider, or any other uses of the internet.
“It is very, very critical for us to determine the reality of internet service in every corner of the county,” Neal said.
The survey will only take about 10 minutes to complete, and will be as simple as possible.
“The second thing… If somebody doesn’t have internet service, what good does it do to put an internet survey online? So, I’m also going to be scheduling conference calls,” Neal said.
He said there will be two or three of them scheduled throughout February. The dates of the calls will be announced later, along with the phone number to call in. People will be able to call in and provide information over the phone.
“The idea is to collect all the information, determine where are the areas that are underserved, and quite frankly unserved, where there’s not access to reliable and affordable internet. Essentially, everybody today has access to the internet because of satellite providers, but that doesn’t mean it’s good internet or it’s affordable internet, and that’s where we want to get to in the world. Everybody should have access to high speed, affordable internet,” Neal said.
The survey’s will inform the company and the county as a plan is developed on how to proceed, or how the county wants to proceed with “potentially leveraging the available funds to improve that internet service.”
Neal will also be reaching out directly to school districts, healthcare providers, and chambers of commerce to get information, and their perspective on internet access.
While the study will not be focused on cell phone services, Neal said it will reflect cell phone service based on if someone has access to wireless broadband as a source of internet.