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Director Alan Wood discussed the following regarding a feasibility study for expansion of Broad Band Services in Stokes County: • • Economic Development Commission started looking at Broad Band Services in Stokes County during the development of their strategic plan Percentages vary when it comes to the availability of Broad Band in Stokes County, one map funded by the telephone companies reflects that 90% of Stokes residents have Broad Band available, one map funded by ENorth Carolina reflects 60-65% of Stokes County residents have Broad Band available The 60-65% coverage is probably realistic Satellite coverage is not to be included in the definition of Broad Band coverage Have met with representatives from Embarq to try to find out what are Embarq’s plans for the future as far as Broad Band for Stokes County Meeting with Embarq representatives again next week for further discussion Working with representatives from Caswell and Rockingham counties for possible regional grant – regional grant applications are usually looked at more favorable Representatives from Rockingham and Caswell counties also feel that a joint application will be viewed more favorably Caswell County is currently having a feasibility study done with Rockingham having already completed phase I of the feasibility study by their own staff Must have a feasibility study in order to move forward with any grant applications Must know where the needs are, must know where Broad Band is currently available, must know what are the plans for implementing the needs in the future, and is it cost effective along with what it will cost to complete the plan Two proposals available – basically both will do the following: A needs assessment will be performed Finding out where Broad Band is currently available What % of the population has Broad Band coverage Develop a plan for a wire/wireless Broad Band across the entire county Cost analysis be performed Provide the best plan to implement the project Do the engineer study up to the point where fiber goes into the ground with additional engineer work having to be done if there is a need for a lot of fiber – this would possibly generate additional costs Once the engineer study is done- a report will be presented to the county for a decision to be made whether to move forward with the project Provide the County with who the partners could be Provide possible outside providers
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◦ Provide assistance with the grant applications for an additional cost • One proposal has a cost of $55,000 which will provide Phase I and Phase II – up to the grant implementation which will cost approximately $10,000 – this cost would be shared by the three counties if a regional grant was submitted • The other proposal is broken down into three parts – Part I: Needs assessment-then decide whether to move forward- cost approximately $21,000; Part II – Building network, providing partners/providers and plans to implement the project –cost approximately $23,000; Part III – Grant application process (Part I and Part II -cost not to exceed $44,000) costing approximately $8,000 • Both vendors who submitted proposals come highly recommended (Probably the best time to get funding from stimulus dollars for Broad Band expansion) • • $7.2 billion dollars of stimulus funding set aside for rural Broad Band along with other possible funding sources such as Golden Leaf, Rural Center, etc. • Time line is critical for implementing the feasibility study • Next grant application deadline is tentatively set for late February or early March • Before moving forward with any Broad Band expansion, a feasibility study must be done • Grant application is highly competitive and the County needs someone who has experience in preparing and submitting this type of grant application • Both vendors have submitted this type of grant applications • Broad Band needed for entrepreneurship, college and high school students, current and new businesses in the county • Economic Development Commission recommends to use capital reserve economic development funding to move forward with the feasibility study The Board discussed the proposals submitted by Director Wood, possibly using funds in capital reserve set aside for economic development projects, need for a feasibility study, need for Broad Band across the county, percentage of Broad Band availability, and regional grant applications. The Board unanimously agreed the need for Broad Band across the county and the need to move forward with the feasibility study. Director Wood noted that he could provide the Board with more information from the two proposals at the next meeting for further discussion. Chairman Inman directed Director Wood to provide the Board with additional information available regarding the proposals and directed the Clerk to place the item on the October 12th Action Agenda. http://www.co.stokes.nc.us/bocc/minutes/2009/m092809.htm
October 12, 2009 (2009-10-12) Broadband – Feasibility Study – Proposed Bids Economic Development Director Alan Wood presented the following information regarding two proposals received for a Broadband Feasibility Study: • • • • • • • • • • Improving broadband is probably the most important step the County can take to improve the economic and educational levels in the community Broadband is the center of the strategic plan adopted by the Economic Development Commission Best estimate for broadband coverage in the County is 60-65% Still meeting with representatives from Embarq, which is now CenturyLink Embarq does have some future expansion plans, but it will not take the County to where the County needs to be with broadband coverage for a majority of the residents It will be very important during this process to try to form partnerships Private entities will only be interested in going where it is profitable for them, the county will have to subsidize those areas that private entities are not willing to go Two proposals received: Howell Group, LLC and Excelsio Communications Both companies can provide the services requested Howell Group provides phases – Phase I- Feasibility Study which will determine where broadband is located in the County, who the providers are, and then provide the County with information to determine whether to proceed any further with the project – Cost Estimate = $20,000 - $23,000 Howell Group Phase II – Would provide network architecture and technology recommendations, determine the optimal broadband technology, and would also provide the County with a financial model and business plan for the network - Cost Estimate = $24,000 (this would be a shovel ready proposal) Howell Group Phase III – Grant Application for stimulus funding – Cost = $8,000 which could be less if combined with Rockingham and Caswell counties Excelsio Communications is a lump sum fee of $55,000 for a complete Feasibility Study along with $10,000 for Grant Application which could be less if combined with Rockingham and Caswell counties
Economic Development Director Wood recommended that the County move forward with The Howell Group, LLC proposal which has more flexibility, allows the County to make adjustments in the plan as it moves forward, has extensive contacts in North Carolina, has recently been involved in completing studies and applications submitted for federal stimulus funding, and their timeline shows that they can complete the work in compliance with the County’s needs to be ready for the next round of funding. The Board discussed the two proposals with Economic Development Commission, available funding for the proposal, and the need for expansion of broadband services in Stokes County. The Board unanimously agreed to proceed with the Feasibility Study.
Economic Development Director Wood presented the Board with the Budget Amendment #25 which includes funding for Phase I with the Howell Group:
Account Number Account Description Economic Development 100.4920.184 201.4920.027 201.9810.000 Professional Services Totals Capital Reserve Fund Economic Development Transfer to General Fund $214,178.00 $51,698.00 -$21,000.00 $21,000.00 $193,178.00 $72,698.00 $0.00 $21,000.00 $21,000.00 Current Budget Amount Increase (Decrease) As Amended
This budget amendment is justified as follows: To transfer funds from Capital Reserve Fund to General Fund for the Feasibility Study for expansion of broadband services in Stokes County. This will result in a net increase of $21,000.00 in the expenditures and other financial use to the County’s annual budget. To provide the additional revenue for the above, the following revenues will increase. These revenues have already been received or are verified they will be received this fiscal year.
Account Number Account Description 100.3982.960 Transfer from Capital Reserve Fund Current Budget Amount $48,698.00 Increase (Decrease) $21,000.00 As Amended $68,698.00
Chairman Inman entertained a motion. Vice Chairman Walker moved to proceed with the broadband feasibility study per the Economic Development Commission and Economic Development Director’s recommendation with The Howell Group as presented and Budget Amendment #25 not to exceed $21,000. Commissioner Carroll seconded and the motion carried unanimously. http://www.co.stokes.nc.us/bocc/minutes/2009/m101209.htm
November 23, 2009 (2009-11-23) Broadband Feasibility Study – Phase I Economic Development Director Alan Wood introduced Mr. John Howell and Mr. Glenn Krauss who presented the Broadband Feasibility Study – Phase I. Mr. Howell and Mr. Krauss discussed the following information with the Board regarding Phase I: • • • • • • • • Economic challenges faced by Stokes County are numerous Broadband access has proven to be one of the main catalysts for innovation Limiting Stokes County’s progress is the lack of broadband access Early college program has started to provide laptops for students Many students live in rural areas of the county where broadband is either not available or not affordable which prevents them from taking advantage of these laptops Many students enrolled at area community colleges and those seeking to enroll at other institutions cannot take advantage of online course offerings without adequate broadband E-NC website reports that 70.91% of the citizens have access to broadband in Stokes County Primary stakeholders that were interviewed for information: ◦ Public School System ◦ EMS ◦ GIS ◦ City of King ◦ Town of Walnut Cove ◦ Cable Provider – Time Warner Cable ◦ Local telephone companies – Embarq/CenturyLink, Surry Telephone, and Windstream Survey (vehicular ride) of the entire County was done to further validate the broadband coverage data All information collected during the survey has been downloaded into the County’s GIS/Mapping System Current estimated county population = 46,624 15% of households in Stokes County are not currently being served 11% of households in Stokes County have DSL only 21% of households in Stokes County have cable only 53% of households in Stokes County have DSL/Cable options 3% have marginal broadband 18% don’t have quality broadband service Estimated 7,000 residents can’t get broadband service Estimated 1,400 residents are underserved Estimated 22,000 residents have only one option for broadband service 82% have 3 mbps+ speed 15% have only 1.5 mbps speed 3% have dial up Stokes County School System recently migrated all of their broadband needs to a Time Warner fiber optic spoke and hub network which provides 100meg to every school The network connects the schools’ administrative central office to each of the schools with a
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direct fiber network which could be an excellent starting point Prior to this fiber optic network, the schools utilized a wireless point-to-point network which is still in place Schools System’s current and old network can play a huge part providing broadband to those un-served areas, but the County would have to develop a partnership with Time Warner due to restrictions within the schools’ contract One option for expanding broadband coverage would be to utilize the fiber optic network and install wireless transmitters at each of the schools to serve the areas surrounding the schools, this solution would require a partner to sell, install and maintain the wireless last mile portion of the network County can also look at using existing water tanks, fire departments, etc. to start the network Satellite service is available to 98% of the citizens in Stokes County The need for the County to continue to look for funding and partnering opportunities Phase II will provide a design and engineer network, sustainable business, and financial plan, along with information for a “shovel ready project” Phase III – will prepare and submit application for funding
Mr. Howell expressed appreciation to GIS Specialist Greg Hunsucker, GIS/Mapping Department, for his assistance. Mr. Howell noted that Rockingham County (at their 11-23-09 meeting) has contracted with the Howell Group to do Phase II which will be similar to Stokes County’s Phase II. Mr. Howell stated that the Howell Group recommends Stokes County continue with Phase II. The Board discussed the following with Mr. Howell and Mr. Krauss: • • • • • • • • • • Need for service for those who are not being served as well as those who only have one option Available Stimulus Funding Phase II – must be done to apply for stimulus dollars Phase II – cost is approximately $25,250 with completion being late December or early January 2010 Funding available in Capital Reserve designated for Economic Development Application process for funding Extra band space available at the schools Dual problem regarding broadband – access and connection Needed infrastructure for economic development and student access Moving forward with Phase II
Chairman Inman directed the Clerk to place the item on the December 14th Action Agenda.
January 25, 2010 (2010-01-25) EDC Broadband Feasibility Study – Phase II Update Economic Development Director Alan Wood presented the following information regarding the Broadband Feasibility Study – Phase II: (Director Wood submitted the Board with an Executive Summary from Telecommunications Consulting Associates regarding Phase II) • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Analysis indicates that the various broadband providers cover approximately 85% of the County’s population; however, only 82% have high speed service available Estimated 7,000 citizens or approximately 2,800 homes are un-served and another 1,400 homes are under-served Only 53% of the county’s population have a choice of providers, which means almost half have no choice which means no competition Announcement has been made that round two for broadband stimulus funding is opening earlier than expected – February 15, 2010 (approximately $3.2 billion) There will be thirty (30) days to submit an application requesting funding Final, complete study from the Howell Group is due to Stokes County by January 31, 2010 Howell Group has selected a 4g technology which is the most cost efficient 4g providers in this area are Sprint, Clearwire and Time Warner Howell Group has not specified equipment at this point in time nor have they completed a final list of partners A final list of partners would be completed for the application submission Mr. Howell has contacted representatives from Spring, Clearwire, and Time Warner and all have expressed interest, but none have committed to a partnership at this point Network being recommended covers 95%+ of the county with fifteen (15) tower sites and one (1) Network Operations Center Six of the sites will be connected with fiber links which are already located Nine of the links will be using microwave links RUS will focus this round on “last mile” projects These projects have the “last mile” as their main focus USDA will be the funding source for “last mile” projects Howell Group recommends the County apply through the USDA-RUS Continuing to work with Rockingham County for possible joint stimulus application If joint stimulus application is done with Rockingham County, one (1) Network Operations Center can be shared between both counties which would reduce capital expenditures and operating expenses Rough estimate for countywide network coverage is $4.71 million ◦ System Construction Capital = $2.5 million ◦ New Site Development = $0.96 million ◦ CPE Capital for 3 years = $1.25 million Funding is 75% grant with 25% loan for 5 years County may apply for funding from Golden Leaf, Rural Center, ARC, etc. to cover the 25% loan In round one, federal application requirements included a “but for clause”, not sure if it will be included in the round two application process
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Application process will require additional research and study since many changes were made from the round one application Howell Group will be attending training in Atlanta in February Believe a joint two-county application to RUS is the most desirable path to pursue Stokes County has never intended to operate a network system, there would a third party who takes on the operation of the network system along with the operating cost Howell Group will be providing two business cases for the Board’s consideration Projected costs could be lower when the final report is completed
Economic Development Director Wood requested the decision to submit a joint two-county application (with Rockingham County) for stimulus funding and grant fee funding approval be placed on the February 8th Action Agenda. ($10,000 fee will be shared equally with Rockingham County) The Board discussed the Phase II information and grant request with Director Wood. Chairman Walker questioned if the 25% loan could be covered by fees for using the service. Director Wood noted that he would need to further research that issue. Vice Chairman Lankford requested the final report be given to the Board as soon as possible in order for the Board to have adequate time to review the document and recommendations. Chairman Walker, with full consent of the Board, directed the decision to submit a joint two-county application with Rockingham County for stimulus funding and approval of grant fee funding be placed on the February 8th Action Agenda.
February 8, 2010 (2010-02-08) EDC Broadband Feasibility Study – Request to Proceed with Grant Application Economic Development Director Alan Wood welcomed Director Mark Wells, Rockingham County Business Technology Center, who has worked closely with Stokes County during the Broadband Feasibility Study. Director Wood expressed appreciation to Director Wells for his continued cooperation during this study. Director Wells will be going before the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners this evening for approval to proceed with the grant application process. Economic Development Director Alan Wood presented Mr. John Howell and Mr. Glenn Kruse who presented the following information regarding the request to proceed with grant application: • Existing DSL Coverage ◦ Residential DSL-12,463 currently being served and 8,681 being un-served ◦ Business DSL-526 currently being served and 120 being un-served Existing Cable Coverage ◦ Residential Cable-15,553 currently being served and 5,591 being un-served ◦ Business Cable-569 currently being served and 77 being un-served Existing Broadband Overview ◦ Residential-Availability ▪ Single option-6,638 ▪ Dual option-10,201 ▪ Un-served-4,305 ◦ Business-Availability ▪ Single option-64 ▪ Dual option-503 ▪ Un-served-79 Objective is to provide wireless coverage to 95%+ Projected to use a 16 site design which would downlink speed of 3 meg or greater using an CPE (customer premises equipment) – majority of sites are already located in the County Not everyone would have to use a CPE Summary of Broadband Service available after proposed wireless network is deployed ◦ Business – Wireless ▪ 29 will be un-served ▪ 617 will be served ◦ Residential – Wireless ▪ 726 will be un-served ▪ 20,418 will be served Instructions that Stokes County does not want to be in the business of running a broadband network has been incorporated into all the analysis Jane Patterson, ENC Authority, has expressed interest that ENC Authority would like to be an applicant for stimulus dollars Ms. Patterson is verifying that ENC Authority has the authority to be an applicant for Stokes County ENC Authority applied and received stimulus funding for Broadband in Round 1
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Federal rules for Round 2 came out last Tuesday Rules have completely changed from the rules in Round 1 Howell Group will be in Atlanta the end of the week to learn more about the application process Stokes County’s application would be for RUS – Department of Agriculture Stimulus Funding Budget for this project is estimated at $4.58 million which is similar to the Rockingham County’s estimated budget Suggest making a joint application with Rockingham County, with the possibility of Caswell County being a third applicant Caswell County will be voting tomorrow whether to move forward with the grant application process If ENC is the applicant, ENC would be the fiduciary and would be responsible for the 25% loan Department of Agriculture Grant is a 75/25 grant loan – the 25% loan would be the responsibility of the entity that makes the application Round 2 is asking for more details with the application Stokes and Rockingham counties both have very good, accurate data/mapping for the application
ED Director Wood noted the following: • • • • Approval needed tonight to move forward with the application process Approval of Budget Amendment #56 which allocates $10,000 from Economic Development Contingency to fund the application There are some changes from the Round 1 application process The Howell Group will attend training in Atlanta this week, if after the training they feel our application would be unsuccessful, then Stokes County would not go forward with the application process Application process opens February 15th with 30 days to complete the application Feels Stokes County has a very strong business case Fee would be, if joint application with Rockingham County, between $6,000 and $8,000 Caswell County is considering two options, not sure if Caswell will move forward with the option that is similar to Stokes and Rockingham counties If Caswell County’s option is similar then application fee will be somewhat less
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Mr. Wells stated that funding for the application fee has already been approved by Rockingham County, but approval to move forward with the application is on the Board’s Agenda for tonight. Rockingham County officials are aware of the possibility of a joint application with Stokes County and possibly Caswell County. Rockingham County has direct links to the ENC Authority, ENC funding help to start the Rockingham Technology Business Center. The Board discussed the Agenda item with Mr. Howell and Mr. Kruse. Vice Chairman Lankford confirmed that ENC can apply for funding and work with a private entity such as CenturyLink to build the network. Mr. Howell did note CenturyLink had indicated that they would not be applying for federal stimulus funding. Mr. Howell noted the need to have a “shovel ready project” in order to receive stimulus funding.
Commissioner Carroll confirmed that the Howell Group does have a backup applicant if ENC were not able to submit the application – a 501(c) non-profit which would also be a good opportunity. Commissioner Carroll also confirmed with Mr. Howell that this funding is not tied in any way to ERate Funding. Mr. Howell noted that ENC Authority might have other projects that could be tacked on which looks very favorable to the Federal Government. Mr. Howell also noted that ENC Authority is already receiving funding from the Federal Government. Commissioner Smith confirmed with Mr. Howell that the applicant will be solely responsible for the 25% loan match. Commissioner Smith questioned who will own the assets. Mr. Howell noted that in Round 1, the applicant actually owned the assets, but changes could have been made in Round 2. Mr. Howell confirmed that Stokes County and the citizens of Stokes County would not be held responsible for the 25% loan match. Director Wood concluded that the federal application process includes a “but for clause” and feels that “but for this funding”, this network would not be built, and “but for this funding”, these people would not in the immediate future have coverage. Finance Director Julia Edwards submitted Budget Amendment #56 for allocation of funding. Economic Development - Budget Amendment #56 To amend the General Fund, the expenditures are to be changed as follows:
Account Number Account Description Economic Development 100.4920.370 201.4920.027 201.9810.000 Advertising Capital Reserve Fund Economic Development Transfer to General Fund Totals
Current Budget Amount $35,000.00 $162,928.00 $102,948.00 $265,876.00
Increase (Decrease) $10,000.00 (-$10,000.00) $10,000.00 $0.00
As Amended $45,000.00 $152,928.00 $112,948.00 $265,876.00
This budget amendment is justified as follows: To transfer funds from Capital Reserve Fund for grant application fee for Broadband. This will result in a net increase of $10,000.00 in the expenditures and other financial use to the County’s annual budget. To provide the additional revenue for the above, the following revenues will increase. These revenues have already been received or are verified they will be received in this fiscal year.
Account Number Account Description 100.3982.960 Transfer from Capital
Current Budget Amount $99,948.00
Increase (Decrease) $10,000.00
As Amended $109,948.00
Reserve Fund 100.4920.370 Totals $99,948.00 $10,000.00 $109,948.00
Chairman Walker entertained a motion. Commissioner Inman moved to proceed with the application process for Broadband Stimulus Funding and Budget Amendment #56. Commissioner Smith seconded and the motion carried unanimously.
March 8, 2010 (2010-03-08) Agenda Discussion Agenda d. Proposed Resolution – Broadband Access in Unserved and Underserved Areas within North Carolina County Manager Bryan Steen Economic Development Director Alan Wood
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