Access to high-speed, quality broadband or wireless Internet is something that many expect nowadays for uses from entertainment to business. If you live in Summit County, chances are you may not have the fastest Internet, and the county wants to do something about that.
Summit County Manager Bob Jasper noted that efficient broadband access is key to achieving one of the county's strategic goals.
"One of our strategic goals is economic diversity both to diversify our economic base and strengthen it," Jasper said. "The whole issue of rapid and efficient connectivity is a key to that."
Right now the county is in what Jasper calls the "exploratory" stage of assessing broadband service levels countywide. Meetings have been planned with area Internet providers such as AllWest and Century Link, with some preliminary conversations already underway.
According to Summit County Council Member Roger Armstrong, "We're going to have meetings with wireless providers to see what levels of service they provide. We want to see what their current plans are for expansion and upgrade as well as whether there's anything the county can do to incentivize upgrades."
Armstrong noted that adequate broadband access is crucial not only to private households but also to future development in attracting new businesses. He stated that roughly 60 percent of businesses in the Snyderville Basin are home-based and that, to them, broadband is "very important.
Businesses that the county would like to grow, Armstrong said, include those that are tech-related and in the medical research field that "cross a very broad spectrum from professional to clerical."
"Broadband is very critical sociologically and with the specific kinds of businesses we're looking at recruiting to the county, higher levels of broadband speed are going to be necessary to bring in these businesses," Armstrong said.
Jasper echoed that sentiment.
"We have a number of people here who hold very high positions, whether they're CEOs or they own their own companies, and they have secondary or primary homes here," Jasper said. "To connect properly and quickly is important to them to make their businesses run."
Armstrong added that when infrastructure was being developed for the 2002 Winter Olympics, a good amount of fiber-optic cable line was installed along State Road 224 and down S.R. 248 towards Deer Valley. "The broadband is here, but connecting to that can be expensive," he said.
Jasper says that the county is working with individual cities to see how they can connect to these fiber-optic cables. He said AllWest, which serves much of Eastern Summit County, is slowly working its way to the Snyderville Basin and Park City area.
Armstrong pointed out the drastic differences in Internet speeds that Century Link provides to the county.
"If you look at what Century Link provides, they have a modest level of service in Park Meadows at about 3 megabytes per second (mbps) -- other parts of the county they can provide 20 to 40 mbps," Armstrong said.
Armstrong wants to address what he sees as an issue in the development code where broadband access is not included as mandatory for new development. He suggested a requirement that high-speed connections be included in those new developments.
The county hopes to put a report online that individuals can look at to compare the various Internet providers and their services and rates, as well as what levels of connectivity are in certain areas.
"This gives people purchasing power -- that kind of competition allows providers to compete for business and make their decisions about upgrading services greater," Armstrong said.
"I hope in the near future [Summit County] will be recognized in the country as being fiber-optic connected and high-speed," Jasper said.