‘Filling the void’: Washington County officials: Countywide high-speed internet ‘just months away’

The Washington County Board of County Commissioners are recently recognized by the Florida Association of Counties for its efforts in installing broadband infrastructure. [Washington County Board of County Commissioners]

CHIPLEY – High-speed internet will soon be accessible to all Washington County residents.
The final broadband towers are slated to be installed by the fall.
“We’re in really good shape in terms of tower placement,†Washington County
Administrator Jeff Massey said in an interview last week. “We already have eight or nine
towers up and running and all the reports I’ve been getting have been very good about the
quality and speed.â€
“That’s all very encouraging,†he added.
The two-phase project provides broadband internet service throughout the county. The first
phase covers the installation of 16 towers and the second phase identifies and strengthens
areas of signal weakness. The project, in its third year, has experienced some lag due to
supply chain issues largely triggered during the time of uncertainty around the COVID-19
pandemic, Massey noted.
“I want to ask the residents to be patient because it is happening as we speak,†he said,
referring to erecting the towers. “We still have some supply chain issues but it’s much better
than before.â€
Funding for the project came via rural infrastructure grants administered by the Florida
Department of Commerce. For the first phase, the county was awarded $1.5 million with a
match, and $2.5 million for the second phase, which does not require a match. The county
has used a combination of leasing currently existing towers and constructing brand new
ones to fulfill the project.
While long an obvious need, the value of having broadband service became apparent when
the pandemic forced school children into distant learning and the elderly into telemedicine.
The inadequacy of internet services disrupted the quality of life.
Massey said the Washington County Board of County Commissioners (WCBOCC) knows the
progress on this project is “a huge win,†particularly in the case of another circumstance that
forces residents to live, work, and play at home.
“It makes me proud that we’re filling that void,†Massey said.

The WCBOCC was recognized last month at the Florida Association of Counties Annual
Conference & Exposition for its commitment to providing broadband services to the rural
county. Officials said Washington County was one of the leading rural counties that
prioritized the effort.
“It is always humbling when a group of your colleagues find it appropriate to honor your
efforts. It was a great pleasure for Washington County to receive this award,†said WCBOCC
Chairman Tray Hawkins. “The award was not only recognition of work done by the
commission but, more so, all of the efforts put forth by our staff. I say it now and said
multiple times before, our county staff are the best in the business. They are the backbone of
this organization and always rise to every opportunity to better serve our communities.â€
County officials has welcomed feedback on the service.
It is important to note that the county is a catalyst for providing the service. Residents who
would like to access the service must apply on their own. All payments for the service will be
made to the service provider, WildStar Networks, not to the County. Also, because some of
the towers are located near county lines, residents of neighboring counties may also choose
to apply.
For more information and to apply for high-speed internet service, visit washingtonfl.com
and click “new wireless internet†under the quick links tab.