Orange County has earmarked about $4.4 million from its share of the US federal bailout to bring broadband to homes unable to connect to a high-speed line.
The County Board of Commissioners approved a bid from Charter Communications, Spectrum’s parent company, and unanimously approved it this week. Now the county will negotiate a three-year agreement with the provider to install fiber optic lines in rural southern Apopka and eastern Orange County.
About 1,200 households in these areas do not have access to high-speed Internet, which is at least 25 megabits per second, which is fast enough to do schoolwork, video conferences, stream movies and play video games.
Once completed, officials believe Orange will be among the first counties in the state to have 100% of residents able to get broadband, which is crucial for everything from paying bills, completion of school work and use of telehealth services.
“High-speed Internet access is not a luxury. In 2022 and beyond, this is a necessity,” Mayor Jerry Demings said in a press release. “Global connectivity brings vital services including telehealth, education and access to information that have proven essential during the pandemic. I am happy that we will soon be able to say that 100% of Orange County is connected by broadband. »
To get online, residents would have to subscribe to a service provider at their own expense — however, the federal government offers a subsidy to reduce the cost of some plans.
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Spectrum plans to innovate by the end of this year and connect cables in 2023 and 2024, depending on the agenda item.
The county received about $135 million under the federal pandemic relief program, which encourages states, cities and counties to invest in broadband access programs. Those in central Florida took heed.
In addition to Orange’s efforts, Seminole has identified about 780 homes in Casselberry, Winter Springs, Geneva, West Sanford, and Midway without high-speed internet access, and plans to spend about $4.7 million in federal funds to fix them. . Lake County Commissioners funded a similar study.
In Orlando, where about 20% of residents are offline but all have the infrastructure to do so, city officials are trying to figure out why. They’re also expanding a pay-per-WiFi hotspot program run by neighborhood centers and trying to spread the word about federal subsidies to lower monthly bills, or even offer free service.
Orange County officials suspect Spectrum cost will cost less than the budget of $4.4 million, the infrastructure will probably cost around $2.2 million.
An additional $500,000 is expected to cover programs to provide digital literacy and other educational tools to help residents get more out of the internet.