Marion County, Oregon’s scenic landscape and natural resources attract ecotourists from around the world, as well as serving as a prime location for the logging and farming industries. However, in rural parts of the County, conducting business and day-to-day life is made difficult by a lack of available broadband caused by sparse population and challenges of terrain. To keep incumbent industries thriving in the digital economy and to attract new residents with well paid, high-tech jobs, Marion County understands the need for high-speed broadband to enable automated manufacturing and farming, business innovation, and applications such as wayfinding for hikers and other ecotourists. Simultaneously, due to the remote location of many communities within Marion County, broadband can also alleviate issues of mobility through telehealth and e-government applications.
Because traditional internet service providers must adhere to profit motives, a sparse population densities and difficult terrain present obstacles for internet service providers to enter the market in remote areas. Despite these challenges, residents and businesses in areas such as the North Santiam River Canyon require high-speed broadband to drive economic development, access community services, and perform daily tasks such as online business and homework. In an increasingly connected digital world, communities in these locations experience a feeling of being left behind due to an absence of technologies, falling further into the digital divide and impairing their ability to attract new residents and commercial activity. Even as industries such as agriculture and logging rely more and more on broadband-enabled applications, those without access to robust high-speed internet are unable to keep pace with competitors.
Magellan developed a strategic plan for Marion County to address its digital divide. Over the course of the plan’s development, some key opportunities and strategies for success were identified, including taking advantage of ongoing or planned infrastructure projects within the region to reduce the costs and resources needed to extend fiber to the most rural populations. These strategies can be combined with public-private partnerships with existing internet service providers to seek grant opportunities and opportunistically build additional infrastructure to provide service that supports functions such as precision agriculture, public safety applications, telemedicine, and wayfinding.
Marion County is currently implementing this strategic plan by continuing its partnership with Magellan to explore such partnerships, ensuring a more connected future for its residents and businesses. Magellan’s consultants are currently working with the County to pursue funding opportunities and plan for construction.