The Gila County Board of Supervisors approved three items that could improve wireless communication in the Payson, Star Valley and Tonto Basin areas at its Nov. 16 meeting.

At the meeting, the BOS agreed to sign letters of support for Sparklight’s Rural Broadband Development Grant Program Applications to the Arizona Department of Commerce to fund projects to bring broadband service to businesses and residences in Payson, Star Valley and Tonto Basin.

Assistant County Manager Homero Vela brought the matter to the board. He explained the Arizona Commerce Authority would soon open its 2021 grant cycle for rural broadband grant submittals.

Sparklight was successful in obtaining a grant to help fund the installation of a middle-mile fiber link between Show Low and Payson during the 2020 grant cycle. Sparklight would like to extend the fiber connectivity to the homes and businesses in the Payson/Star Valley and Tonto Basin areas and will be submitting a grant proposal to the Arizona Commerce Authority later this year.

“Fast and reliable broadband is no longer a luxury but instead is necessary to attract and retain residents and businesses to Gila County. The state-of-the-art broadband services Sparklight proposes for the Payson, Star Valley and Tonto Basin areas will support critical connectivity needs of residents including distance learning, work from home, telehealth as well as supporting the connectivity requirements of local businesses competing in the digital economy,” Vela said.

He added, Gila County’s broadband network is slow and unreliable and is often based on legacy copper infrastructure. The construction and operation of fiber networks by internet service providers will support critical connectivity needs for residents.

Vela said the county should maintain a position of supporting any other internet service provider that might come before it with similar requests.

Conditional Use Permit

helps cell service The BOS approved a Conditional Use Permit for Crown Castle by Campbell A&Z, LLC to build a new 195-foot lattice tower in the Tonto Basin-Punkin Center area. It would be built on the same site as an existing 71-foot AT&T Wireless Communication Tower Facility.

The new tower improves and expands AT&T’s network coverage and potentially eliminates “coverage gaps.” The improved coverage would make it possible to add data and enhanced digital voice service to customers in the area.

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