Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
FAIRFIELD — The Jefferson County Board of Supervisors approved a contract with Natel Broadband Monday to provide broadband internet to 2,600 rural homes in the county.
The contract is for about $775,000, about $500,000 of which will go toward purchasing wireless equipment for towers and fiber optics to allow Natel to serve the entire county. The money will come from funds Jefferson County received as part of the federal American Rescue Plan. The contract states that the internet download speed will be 100 megabytes per second.
Jefferson County Supervisor Dee Sandquist said this is one of the issues she’s gotten the most phone calls about, and she’s happy the county was able to come to an agreement with Natel to provide a much-needed service to the county’s rural residents.
“People who do not have good internet are really interested in this,” she said.
Sandquist said the supervisors talked to all the internet providers in the county, and Natel was the one that was able to serve the entire county with the funding the supervisors had available.
Jefferson County residents will have an opportunity to apply for an affordable broadband program, which would provide $30 per month for internet for low-income households.
Sandquist said that the pandemic made it clear there is a need for broadband internet in the county, as more people had to work from home, and school children had to conduct their studies online. Sandquist said the price tag on this project would normally be out of reach for the county, but the funds from the American Rescue Plan made it possible.
In early September when the supervisors were reviewing the language in the contract, Supervisor Daryn Hamilton said this new access to high-speed internet will be especially important for schools, especially if they have to close again and more students are logging in at home.
“Last year, some students didn’t have good access to internet at their home, and the district had to pay for hot spots for kids to do their homework,” Hamilton said. “But even cellphones are not good in some parts of the county. This new program will improve that dramatically.”
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