BROADBAND: THE FUTURE OF INTERNET IN YUMA COUNTY
BY ALEJANDRO FIGUEROA, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS DIRECTOR AND MARTIN GARCIA, MANAGEMENT ANALYST
Alberta Newspaper Group
Biz Yuma County
WE LIVE IN a world where having access to a broadband high-speed Internet connection is a crucial aspect of our daily lives. Fast, reliable Internet is vital for communities to fully participate in the economy. Through a reliable internet connection, we can stay up to date with the latest news, video chat with friends and relatives, receive medical advice, work remotely from anywhere in the world, further our education, and run a successful business. Download internet speed requirements vary based on the activity, location, and number of users, and these needs will continue to change as technology advances. The term “broadband” commonly refers to high-speed Internet access that is always on and faster than older-generation technologies. Broadband includes several high-speed transmission technologies, such as fiber, wireless, satellite, digital subscriber line, and cable. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) broadband capability identifies minimum standard access to actual download speeds of at least 25 Megabits per second (Mbps) and actual upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps. These speeds are woefully inadequate for today’s internet usage. The National Telecommunication & Information Administration (NTIA) classifies those with 25 Mbps/3 Mbps as unserved, and those with speeds of 100 Mbps download/20 Mbps upload as underserved. Fiber optic technology currently provides the fastest and most reliable method for internet service delivery. Expanding access to a reliable and affordable fiber broadband connection directly improves a region’s economic competitiveness. It enables businesses of all sizes and industries to reap the benefits of e-recruiting, granting them access to a larger pool of qualified candidates. Furthermore, a digitally fluent workforce with broadband access brings exponential productivity gains and therefore improves a company’s bottom line. A study by Microsoft estimated that only 60.5% of people in Yuma County have access to at least the minimum standard of broadband internet. This means that approximately 84,000 residents of Yuma County do not have access to a reliable high-speed internet connection, impacting their overall quality of life. That is why Yuma County is leading an initiative to ensure high quality fiber internet access for our region. Along with local public, private and academic partners, Yuma County created a Broadband Task Force to identify the critical need for broadband access in our region, and work collaboratively to improve internet speeds available to our community. Yuma County set aside over $20 million out of the $41 million the County was allocated under the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), to fund the design and construction of the County’s broadband middle mile backbone. One hundred forty (140) miles of the latest fiber optic technology will provide end-users with the fastest speeds available today, including a minimum of symmetrical (download and upload speeds) of 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) for residents and 10 Gbps for businesses. Yuma County will own the middle mile backbone. Private sector internet providers will be able to connect to the backbone to provide affordable and reliable highspeed Fiber to the Premise (FTTP) for the entire region, including unserved and underserved areas. Furthermore, private sector internet providers will also be able to provide fiber to future towers for wireless highspeed internet service to sparsely populated and agricultural areas, where FTTP is not feasible or may be cost-prohibitive at the moment. The goal of the Yuma County broadband backbone project is for every city, every neighborhood, and every farm, to the extent possible, to be able to access highspeed, reliable, affordable internet service. The County views the broadband middle mile backbone network as a Countywide utility and an asset that will be operated, regularly upgraded, and maintained for more than 50 years.