Broadband network study OK’d by BOCC

LABELLE — A study of whether it’s feasible to set up a community-wide broadband network in Hendry County will go forward after action taken by the county board last week.

A request for proposals had been advertised for the study during the summer, with the proposals opened on July 19, and a duly constituted review/ranking committee met Friday, Sept. 13, to go through the bids. (A previous panel had made a choice in August but did not have the correct composition of members, so they had to re-form and start over.)

Hendry County Grants & Special Projects Coordinator Janet Papinaw presented her report to the county commissioners Sept. 24. Staff had determined that the county was “in need of professional help to conduct a community broadband assessment and feasibility study. Grant funding for the construction phase of such a network require a completed feasibility study,” it explained.

This study will be financed on an 80-20 basis by an Economic Development Administration (Department of Commerce) grant. The selected bid, from Magellan Advisors — “a well-qualified firm experienced in local and regional projects similar to ours” — was for $96,080 and estimated the work would be completed in 183 days.

County Commissioner Michael Swindle queried Ms. Papinaw, “It said with a $20,000 local match. Do we have to provide that?”

Ms. Papinaw told him, “Yes, and we did identify a source for that.”

“So it’s in the budget and we don’t have to …”

She answered, “Yes. We’re very happy with this group.”

Commissioner Darrell Harris’s motion to accept the proposal and execute a professional services contract with Magellan, seconded by Mr. Swindle, passed 5-0.

“Both the county technical director, Ryan Purdy, and the grants coordinator, Janet Papinaw, look forward to working with this firm,” the report said.

Headquartered in Denver and with offices in Miami and Orlando, Magellan Advisors has a similar project under way in Palm Coast that began last year. That city, north of Daytona Beach, had a study done and is now engaged with Magellan to develop a proposal for a “Palm Coast FiberNet 2.0” to negotiate with partners. Its strategy “enables the city to deploy next generation Smart City technologies, positioning Palm Coast as an ideal place to develop next generation solutions,” says the company’s website.

The Palm Coast FiberNet was saving the city over $300,000 per year but it needed help to expand. Similar to Hendry County, its population is split between two cities, with a widely dispersed rural population.

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