Polk applies for broadband grant

Published 9:27 pm Wednesday, September 8, 2021

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If awarded, county would partner with Charter to expand broadband 

COLUMBUS—The Polk County Board of Commissioners recently applied for a grant that would bring an expansion of broadband throughout the county. 

The Polk County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to apply for the grant at a recent meeting. 

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The grant is from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Build Broadband Infrastructure. 

Commissioners heard from Michael E. Tanck, the Director of Government Affairs for Charter Communications, who detailed broadband expansion opportunities for the county. Tanck also spoke with commissioners earlier in the year saying that Charter received federal funding through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund that will bring broadband to 1,350 locations in Polk County. Charter must have 20 percent of that project completed by year 4 and 100 percent completed by year 6 of the grant. 

If the new grant is awarded to the county, Polk County will have no financial obligations. Charter has agreed to partner with the county on the project and will manage all aspects of the construction, including design, data collection, permits, overseeing the construction and operation of the proposed broadband network. 

Charter has also agreed to contribute its own funding and personnel for the maintenance of the system and service delivery once the project is complete. 

The NTIA grant targets counties that have populations less than 50,000 people, have low in-an-out speeds and have already been awarded federal grants like the RDOF, which qualifies Polk County. Tanck told commissioners there is $288 million available to rural counties and Charter is pursuing it for Polk, Alexander and McDowell counties. 

There was no date as to when the grants may be awarded, but some winners could be announced as early as Nov. 29 this year.