Broadband Internet Project On Track for Eight Panhandle Counties

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Marianna- It was another busy day Tuesday at the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance's warehouse in Marianna.

"There's a lot of moving parts to this whole process," said Opportunity Florida incoming Chairman Byron Ward.

Ward said the group has made significant progress on the project in the last several months.

"We've designed the system, we've laid it out, and now that's what we're implementing," said Ward.

He said as the equipment continues to arrive at the warehouse, the focus now is getting the community involved. That's because the federal stimulus grant paying for the project requires affected communities to contribute thirty percent of the infrastructure.

"They have agreed to provide us towers and things that go into the original design. Now we have contracts out there to get signed and those take time, everybody has to look at them, and that's our biggest concern," said Ward.

The counties involved in this internet upgrade include Jackson, Washington, Holmes, Gadsden, and Calhoun. Franklin, Gulf, and Liberty Counties are also on the list.

"How much of an impact will broadband internet have on these eight rural counties that right now have DSL at the best," News Channel 7's Bryan Anderson asked Opportunity Florida Executive Director Rick Marcum.

"It's a game changer," said Marcum.

Marcum said the move to a faster internet will have a major impact, and not just on the avid Facebook user or Twitter addict.

"The impact on education, distance learning, telemedicine, and all the social benefits that come with that, law enforcement putting up cameras. All of that will be taken care of with this network," said Marcum.

The Alliance said it should have eighty percent of the broadband infrastructure up and running by the end of August. The entire project is expected to be completed by next year. Once the infrastructure is in place, it will be up to individual providers to come in and offer broadband internet service.

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