116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Johnson County plans to partner with a consulting firm to examine broadband infrastructure needs in the county, as well as how to expand access.
The Board of Supervisors last year allocated $50,000 in pandemic relief dollars for a study analyzing the county’s broadband needs. A request for proposals was posted in November looking for a firm to help analyze the county’s broadband capabilities, needs and deficiencies.
The study will be countywide, but there should be a “particular emphasis” placed on the county’s unincorporated areas, “including identified rural economic development areas and villages and the smaller towns that are outside the metro area,” according to the request for proposals.
Johnson County has a population of 152,854, according to the 2020 census. About 14 percent of residents — or 21,884 — live in the unincorporated area.
Proposals from three firms — AppGeo, Design Nine and HR Green — were included in the board’s Wednesday agenda packet. Josh Busard, director of the county’s planning, development and sustainability department, said staff recommends the board select Cedar Rapids-based HR Green.
During Wednesday’s work session, Busard highlighted HR Green’s experience with studies in other Iowa cities and counties. The firm has worked with Mills County, Clinton County and 11 other counties in central Iowa, according to HR Green’s proposal.
“Broadband, as we all know, is extremely important to be able to work from home, educate from home and have access to health care from home,” Busard said.
Supervisor Lisa Green-Douglass said the study is both exciting and needed in light of broadband access being unavailable in some places during natural disasters and the pandemic.
HR Green’s proposal outlines some of the first steps of the study, including a kickoff meeting, developing a base map of the county, analyzing the current market and public engagement.
Ken Demlow, HR Green project manager, told the board it will be important to understand the digital equity issues and what grants are available, as well as working with providers and other stakeholders.
“We particularly want to be ready for the next grant rounds because we are in an unprecedented — I mean we hear that term a lot — but we are in a once in a lifetime opportunity to bring in grants where grants are eligible,” Demlow said.
The study’s cost is estimated at $57,600, Busard said. He added that while this is $7,600 over budget, there likely will be funds available from other American Rescue Plan projects that don’t use all their funding.
All five supervisors indicated their support during Wednesday’s work session to move forward with HR Green. Busard said next steps will include working with HR Green on a refined scope of work and bringing a contract to the board for formal approval.
If the contract negotiations are completed by the end of the month, work can begin as early as March, according to HR Green’s proposal.
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