Greene County Health Dept. Advocates For Broadband Project; County Board Yet to Commit to the Project

By Benjamin Cox on January 22, 2023 at 10:07am

The Greene County Health Department is getting behind a technological initiative they say is defined as a part of public health.

The health department released a statement on their Facebook page last Saturday saying that technological advances are paramount to the existence of rural setting like Greene County. The statement says those advances allow access to resources that have been or will be eventually depleted from a certain area.

Health Department Administrator Molly Peters says that the Greene County Health Department is behind the county-wide initiative to bring broadband to the community because it would be at the core of ensuring both economic and educational strength and growth in the county for the future: “Broadband definitely opens up the avenue for potential of telehealth visiting. It allows for people to access resources easily, quickly; and without that, it really puts us at a disadvantage of accessing mental health counselors, or psychiatrists, or people that may not be in this area. I think it’s important long-term to really consider how quick the Internet is in making it for ease of access to healthcare for this community. In general, we know that many in our community do not have good access, and that really hampers many of the resources that are available to them. As a rural setting, we definitely know that this is something that needs to continue to evolve.”

In the statement last Saturday, the health department says that a good broadband connection will allow emergency services and hospitals to function faster and more efficiently. The health department says that the Covid-19 pandemic laid bare the necessities of having a good Internet connection in the county.

Currently, the Greene County Economic Development group is working to bring a county-wide broadband network that would bring up to 1 gig Internet speeds to the door to all of the residents in the county. The project is estimated to be about $93 million and has been granted to Frontier.

On Wednesday, the Greene County Board had a standing-room-only meeting with officials from around the county discussing the broadband project. Frontier is asking for a local contribution of $1.1 million to put the project in better financial position to receive state and federal grants. The Greene Prairie Press reports that the county wouldn’t be asked for all of the money up front but would be obligated to pay it out over phases of the project, with 10% due when installation of fiber begins. Frontier representatives told the board Wednesday that they would also write the grant to the state and federal governments at no cost to the county, but would need the financial commitment to move forward. The grants’ deadlines are the end of January. Members of the Greene County Board took no action on the project on Wednesday.