NACOG to Expand Broadband Capabilities

Teri Drew, regional director of the Northern Arizona Council of Governments (NACOG) in Prescott, said she sees an immediate need for increasing broadband service throughout central and northern Arizona.

“The intensity for creating broadband awareness has prompted us to sponsor a major survey throughout Yavapai, Coconino, Apache and Navajo counties. That survey will help us develop a strategic blueprint for improving connectivity and digital equity so that emergency management, education, health care and work access are competitive with the rest of the state and nation,” Drew said.

Broadband infrastructure includes cabling and electrical systems that link homes and businesses into local and regional telecommunication and cable companies, making it possible to interconnect local users with internet, telephone, television and other similar services.

Drew and her NACOG colleagues in the Economic and Workforce Development program are cooperating with Magellan Advisers, an industry-leading broadband company, to assess broadband availability in the four NACOG counties.

She said she hopes to gather information from residents and organizations from various communities, large and small, to understand their needs. Residents and businesses in all the communities are asked to take the NACOG Broadband Survey. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes. It should be completed by a person in a home or organization who uses and pays for services.

Data collecting during surveys will be used only for the purpose of developing a strategic plan. All that is wanted is demographic and statistical data so results can be compared to census data and then interpreted for statistical relevance. Privacy is absolutely assured. The survey is totally online. Only those with access to the internet can participate.

When survey data are compiled, Drew said efforts will focus on such concerns as funding; identifying options; locating the unserved/underserved; workshops and surveys to engage public agencies, tribal leaders businesses, nonprofits and community organizations; identifying partnerships; and creating a shovel-ready project to expand broadband infrastructure.

What’s occurring in NACOG and other COG regions in Arizona is part of a national effort. The Federal Communications Commission announced plans to provide low-income households with assistance to help them cover internet costs.

A $3.2-billion Emergency Broadband Benefit is available to households that participate in existing low-income and pandemic-relief programs offered by high-speed internet providers. The same is true of subscribers to the FCC Lifeline Program, including SSI benefit receivers, and Medicaid and SNAP recipients.

As many as 42 million citizens may not have access to high-speed internet. NACOG’s territory stretches from the state’s northeastern borders to central Arizona. It includes more than 47,786 square miles and 561,000 people.

Drew, with 40 years of NACOG experience, said she hoped everyone possible would participate in the survey because of its impact on community resources, elder care, child care, mobility and transportation planning, and economic workforce development.

Her office is in Prescott at 221 N. Marina St., Suite 201. Call 928-778-1422 or go to nacog.org for more detail.