The Orange County Broadband Task Force began meeting in March 2021, to design a strategy for expanding reliable high-speed internet services throughout the underserved areas of the county.
In September, the Orange County Board of Commissioners committed $5 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to help implement the first phase of that strategy.
In November, the county published a Request for Proposals from interested Internet Service Providers to lay a fiber network and connect roughly 5,200 Orange County homes to that network with guaranteed speeds of 100 mps up and 100 mps down. These speeds are sufficient to support two children taking online classes from home while one or more parent works from home. Four companies submitted bids, which are being reviewed by the task force.
"High-quality internet is an essential service that too many of our residents cannot access,” said Orange County Commissioner Sally Greene, a member of the task force. “We look forward to discussing the possibilities in person as soon as we safely can."
The task force is also working with Orange County Emergency Services to identify sites for telecommunication towers that can serve EMS communication needs and accommodate high-speed wireless service antennae.
The task force intends to hold in-person sessions with the community to provide more details on these projects as soon as conditions allow for those meetings to be held safely. The Orange County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) recently announced it will continue meeting virtually through the end of February. When the BOCC resumes in-person meetings, the task force will schedule community information sessions as well.
“Broadband availability has become a vital part of our residents’ daily lives,” said Commissioner Earl McKee, a task force member. “Our board is committed to providing access to this service and will be holding public information sessions this spring to receive feedback from the community.”
The task force is comprised of five community members, commissioners McKee and Greene, and representatives from the county manager’s office, both public school systems, Durham Tech, and the N.C. Broadband Infrastructure Office.
The group meets every other Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. More information about the task force and its activities can be found on the Orange County website: https://www.orangecountync.gov/2628/Broadband-Task-Force.