BOCC chairman represents county on broadband task force

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WALLACE — Shoshone Board of County Commissioners chairman Mike Fitzgerald was recently appointed to Idaho’s Broadband Task Force.

The task force was formed after an executive order from Idaho Gov. Brad Little in May, with the goal of better mapping of Idaho’s existing services and identifying gaps in infrastructure, while also developing a statewide plan for helping close those gaps.

The first meeting of the task force was earlier this month in Boise.

“What we have set out to do is examine the rural broadband issues and come up with a plan or recommendations for how to address it,” Fitzgerald said.

Many statistics give Idaho less than favorable ratings when it comes to the internet, with a recent study from once again demonstrating some of Idaho’s struggles.

According to the study, Idaho ranked No. 3 for the slowest internet in the United States, with an average speed of 25.30 Mbps (megabytes per second).

The national average was 42.42 Mbps.

And while Fitzgerald was slightly out of his element surrounded by some of the other members on the task force, he is very aware of the struggles within Shoshone County and listened attentively to see if he could pick up on anything that would specifically help the local internet issues.

“I’m not sure what will come out of this. What I was pushing for during my talk was that I wanted any recommendation to include a plan or program that spelled out a pathway so that we could help ourselves with rural broadband,” Fitzgerald said. “Especially if it has any incentives or grant opportunities that we can latch on to. Those incentives can be at the local level or at the private level.”

One of the biggest things Fitzgerald gleaned from this introductory meeting, was that being technologically neutral is of the utmost importance.

By technology neutral, Fitzgerald means that we as a community don’t balk at different ideas or methods if it means getting better quality service.

Examples are such as fiber optic, microwave, cellular or satellite.

Having fast and reliable internet is tantamount to any growth or development that could happen in the area.

“It’s access and growth, having that access to high speed internet can provide us with opportunities to grow,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s just part of the modern world.”

Shoshone County is fortunate to be represented on this task force, a fact that isn’t lost on Fitzgerald.

But he doesn’t plan on squandering this opportunity to potentially bring change to the area.

“It’s a huge compliment for me to be representing our community on this task force,” Fitzgerald said. “It gives me the opportunity to give our perspectives on the topic, but also puts us in the room with some of the major players and speak to them face to face.”

Rural broadband improvement has also been one Idaho State Sen. Carl Crabtree’s (District 7) major projects recently and he is also a part of the task force.

The News-Press will continue to report updates on the future meetings of the Idaho Broadband Task Force, with the next meeting scheduled for late July in Twin Falls.

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