Gila County’s Board of Supervisors agreed to a two-pronged approach to answer continuing questions about providing reliable broadband for all the area’s residents and businesses.

The supervisors heard from Homero Vela, assistant county manager, who has been leading the county’s investigation into how to provide affordable broadband service to everyone, not just the large businesses targeted by incoming service providers.

Vela asked the supervisors to approve a request to advertise for proposals for broadband consulting services and apply for a $50,000 grant from the Arizona Commerce Authority. If the county gets the grant, it would conduct a countywide feasibility study to determine the necessity to and receptiveness of the public regarding the utilization of an improvement district to provide: reliable, affordable and redundant broadband network to the entire county; fiber to individual homes and businesses; open system for internet service providers (ISP).

The consultant

The county wants Master Broadband Consulting Services to provide a broadband plan for commercial and residential services. Funding for the consultant cannot exceed $12,000.

The consultant must develop a countywide broadband master plan, prepare a scope of work, and a request for proposals for implementation.

“The need exists to develop an affordable strategic broadband plan and prepare the roadmap for implementation,” Vela told the supervisors.

“To support economic growth in Gila County, we must develop an affordable strategic broadband plan,” he added.

The plan should identify the actions necessary to develop and implement universally available broadband. Vela said the county does not have the expertise required to accomplish this project.

The consultant’s scope of work would include:

• Conceptual design for a fiber to the home/business network supported by a reliable middle mile fiber network.

• Conceptual cost feasibility for design, installation, and operation of the fiber network.

• A market analysis, including conducting a survey of residents and businesses.

• Identification of risk to the county and mitigation plans.

• Development of a project plan and benchmarks.

• Implementation plan.

• Specification of inside plant and outside plant equipment.

• Prepare a Request For Proposals for network design.

• Prepare an RFP for network design construction.

• Assist with analyzing the RFP results.

• Develop financial pro forma.

• Assist with community and partner engagement plan.

The selected firm will provide most of the work with help and input from Gila County. Firms interested in providing this service should have experience in fiber networks and preferably in assisting government communities in deploying fiber-to-the home/business networks.

The grant

The Arizona Commerce Authority announced in September that it would make grant funding available through its Arizona Rural Broadband Development Grant. Grant applications must be submitted to the Arizona Commerce Authority by Oct. 28, 2019. Gila County meets the criteria to apply for these grant funds.

The state has $3 million available to support planning and access for rural Arizona communities to broadband services. A portion of the funds are for projects that are “shovel ready,” with the balance allocated to feasibility studies where projects are yet to be developed.

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