TALLAHASSEE, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The Department of Commerce has announced that the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance (FRBA) has been awarded nearly $24 million to deploy a network designed to provide broadband access to improve education, public health and safety services, and economic development opportunities. Formed by Florida's Heartland REDI in the South and Opportunity Florida in Northwest Florida these two economic development organizations teamed to compete for funding this life-changing project. Government Services Group manages FRBA administration and will be responsible for grant administration. The grant is part of the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program to expand broadband access and adoption across the United States. It is part of the Recovery Act Investments Stimulus Package.
This project will deploy the “Middle Mile” of critical infrastructure to link large scale service providers with local, retail service providers. The FRBA network will deploy microwave, fixed wireless architecture and technology. It is designed to deliver high capacity and cost-effective Middle Mile infrastructure extending the Internet backbone and providing a platform for education, health care and public safety services, economic development and a host of benefits. In short, this project will open these communities to the rest of the world.
“This public private partnership represents a new model for business,” said Robert Sheets, CEO Government Services Group. “In a real and tangible way, this network will connect two geographically distant areas in ways that will improve the quality of life and business opportunities in them both.”
FRBA is comprised of two Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern (RACECs) established by Florida’s Governor. The South Central RACEC includes DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands and Okeechobee Counties as well as the unincorporated area of Immokalee in Collier County and Seminole tribal lands. The Northwest RACEC includes Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Liberty and Washington Counties. These two RACECs represent nearly 20 percent of the land area of the State of Florida and have a total population of 437,946, but only 39 percent have broadband access.
“This shows how together we can do so much more than we can alone,” said Rick Marcum, Executive Director of Opportunity Florida. “Our economic development efforts will take a giant leap forward. The Opportunity Florida region has some of the most beautiful real estate in Florida. We have committed leaders and business interests. With high-speed broadband access, we’ll be extremely competitive in the marketplace for good jobs, enhanced education and health care. Our future is wide open.”
Lynn Topel, Executive Director of Florida's Heartland REDI (FHREDI) agrees. “We have always been an agricultural community, but that is changing. This initiative and our FRBA partnership will give us a depth and breadth of opportunities that simply haven’t been possible. Adding the Middle Mile will improve healthcare access for our residents, connect our businesses to the world and make it possible for our children and their children to make a good living without having to move away.”
“This is not just Opportunity Florida and FHREDI,“ said Johnny Eubanks, Chairman, FRBA. “In each of these areas, private sector, public sector and nonprofits have come together and committed resources and time to ensure that we could collectively make something extraordinary happen. Because of their commitment, two rural regions of critical economic concern will have the opportunity to be two areas of economic vitality.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
NEWS CONFERENCES TO BE HELD FRIDAY
FHREDI Chateau Elan, Sebring, 3 p.m.
Opportunity FL Community Center, Bristol, 2 p.m.