Escambia County is located in the Florida panhandle with a mix of beaches, tourism and development in the South end of the County and more rural population in the North.
Economic development and County officials became increasingly aware during the COVID-19 crisis that unequal access to broadband in the County was creating a digital divide, leaving many residents in the North without access to internet. This created issues surrounding digital education, healthcare and economic development in the Northern portions of the County. In 2020, Escambia County contracted with Magellan Advisors to conduct a broadband study and engineering estimates to address equitable access to high-speed broadband for 100% of Escambia County’s residents and businesses. Escambia County tapped its 2020 CARES Act funding to develop the strategic plan and produce fiber and wireless designs.
Magellan developed a comprehensive broadband study that identified gaps in internet access throughout the County and assessed the needs of the County organization itself. The assessment determined areas of greatest need and prioritized specific communities for new infrastructure, to be funded under future grant programs. For these communities, Magellan’s team developed the design for a countywide hybrid fiber/wireless solution with a high count fiber backbone to connect all County facilities and provide fiber connections to businesses within 500 feet of the network. Magellan developed a strategic business case for the County that showed by building the network, the County could reduce its telecommunications budget significantly and increase speeds and reliability while bringing new fiber into unserved areas of the County to support broadband access. Fiber and fixed wireless last mile were incorporated into the design to expand high-speed internet to the most unserved residents and businesses.