SNOW HILL – The Worcester County Commissioners agreed this week to seek proposals for a broadband feasibility study.
Following a November discussion regarding broadband internet options for the county, the commissioners voted 5-1 this week to solicit bids from consultants interested in conducting a broadband feasibility study in Worcester County.
“We need to move into the future,” Commissioner Ted Elder said. “It’s time that we got into the 21st century.”
Brian Jones, the county’s information technology manager, presented the commissioners with a draft of the request for proposals (RFP) Tuesday. He said there were a variety of options for the county to pursue but that the first step in the process should be a feasibility study. Studies in counties similar to Worcester have cost close to $30,000.
“The problem is without having accurate numbers we don’t know what they’re telling us, if it’s feasible or not,” Jones said. “Anybody can sell us anything but until we really have a basepoint of where to start and how to put this thing together it could be a disaster and we don’t want to repeat what we’ve seen in the past.”
While Commissioner Bud Church was quick to make a motion to approve issuing the RFP, Commissioner Jim Bunting said he would not support the motion. He said the county had three broadband options and that those should be explored before a consultant was hired.
Jones said feasibility studies had helped other counties offer access to broadband.
“Before we can even start to build it we’ve got to understand what our needs are,” he said.
Bunting however maintained his objection.
“It’s not going to be feasible,” he said. “It’s going to cost the county a lot of money. I do think all three options should be looked at … before we hire a consultant.”
Commissioner Joshua Nordstrom indicated he supported issuing the RFP but said he expected the consultant to help the county through the entire process.
“If we’re going to have this expenditure, I want to make sure we’re getting our money’s worth out of it,” he said. “I want someone who is there to answer questions, someone who is there from beginning to end.”
Jones said the cost of the study was insignificant compared to the total cost of bringing broadband to the area.
“That’s a drop in the bucket to what it’s going to cost to put any service in this county,” he said. “You’ll be looking at starting probably $5 million just to start. That’s a lot of money.”
He said he was under the impression the county wanted to explore its options and have a study done so that it would be eligible for grant funding.
“Before we apply for anything, for any grant, we have to have a study put together,” he said. “This is a step. This is not just spending it and throwing it away. It’s a step for anybody to come into the county. We have to start somewhere.”
“If you just go in and say give me money, they’re not going to hand you anything,” he said. “You’ve got to have all your numbers, and I think this is the first step.”
The commissioners voted 5-1, with Bunting opposed and Commissioner Joe Mitrecic absent, to approve the RFP.