With COVID-19 impacting several counties across the state, limited internet access challenges have been a highlighted issue for the residents and businesses of Marion County. The pandemic had caused the gaps in the community to become more apparent as school systems closed and people were having issues connecting to the internet.
“As COVID ramped up, it brought out and made us start to think ‘How do we improve this? How do we get better internet access for our county?’ We needed to raise our hand to get some help here and hopefully improve internet with Marion,” said County Chairman George Neal.
Unstable internet speeds and residents unable to have internet due to isolated roads were just a few of the factors that propelled Neal and his team to apply for the designation. Cities and counties with this Broadband Ready designation have completed the online application and demonstrated compliance with the adoption of both a Comprehensive Plan, inclusive of the promotion of deployment broadband services, and the Broadband Model Ordinance.
Chairman Neal shared his hopes of the designation allocating resources that will allow the county to work with partners while also taking advantage of new technology for remote spaces.
“The world is connected now through the internet. For jobs and commerce now, there are a lot of folk that are working from home and working remotely. One of the things you have to have in order to do that is a good internet speed,” he said. “If we are hoping to attract industries and companies to come and set up shop, they have to know if they’ll have a reliable, high speed internet.”
Neal emphasized that not only will the Broadband Ready Certification improve the county’s educational and economical development, but also the quality of life for the people of Marion. As the designation opens doors to gaining assistance and subsidies, he encourages other cities to also apply for aid.
“Throughout this process, we hope to learn and grow and connect our community so we can be a part of all the good things that are going on,” Neal said, “and for our residents to have a good quality of life."