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A new census broadband dashboard shows Panhandle counties are lagging

A.J. Bowen of Schupp's Line Construction, Inc. works on fiber-optic installation in Norton, Vt.
A.J. Bowen of Schupp's Line Construction, Inc. works on fiber-optic installation in Norton, Vt.

Rural counties in the Florida Panhandle continue to lag behind much of the rest of the state when it comes to broadband connectivity.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new ACCESS BROADBAND dashboard that shows the percentage of households that subscribe to broadband by state and county.

The Federal Communications Commission defines broadband as download speeds of at least 25 Mbps and upload speeds of at least 3 Mbps.

Madison, Hamilton and Gadsden Counties have the lowest broadband connectivity in the state — with roughly a third of households in each county lacking a subscription to to high-speed internet.

Statewide, about 87% of households have a subscription to broadband internet service.

Here are the broadband connectivity rates in Panhandle counties with the lowest rates:

-Madison County — 65% of households
-Hamilton County — 67% of households
-Gadsden County — 68% of households
-Liberty County — 71% of households
-Calhoun County — 74% of households
-Jefferson County — 76% of households
-Taylor County — 77% of households
-Holmes County — 77% of households
-Jackson County — 78% of households

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently announced millions of dollars worth of grants to connect rural residents in North Florida to high-speed internet. That funding comes from the Broadband Opportunity Grant Program, which the legislature created in 2021.

Legislation recently filed in both the House and Senate would allow rural electric cooperatives to use their poles to connect customers to high speed internet.

Valerie Crowder is a freelance journalist based in Tallahassee, Fl. She's the former ATC host/government reporter for WFSU News. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.