Surrounded by rivers on three sides, Sherman County is located in rural northern Oregon. Because of the region’s low population density—about half of all residents live in unincorporated areas—access to quality broadband was once difficult to find, and many people were still bound to dial-up and expensive satellite service as recently as the late-2000s. In 2009, county officials initiated a county-led effort to provide affordable broadband to all residents.
Taking advantage of the existing 911 system, Sherman County expanded broadband infrastructure to rural parts of the county, allowing residents to access affordable Internet service. The new system went online in the summer of 2011 and by summer 2014, 13 percent of all households in the county had signed up, with more subscribers signing up every month. Many of the new customers had no access to quality broadband before the new system was developed, while others opted to switch from a different Internet provider because the county-owned system is less expensive and more flexible than available alternatives. Access to broadband has allowed several at-home businesses to expand and help supplement household income, including a family-run hardwood brokerage company.
Sherman County Commissioner Michael Smith joins the podcast to detail the county’s innovative approach and explain how using the existing 911 system as the basis for broadband development can be an efficient strategy for bringing high-speed Internet into low-density areas.
This podcast includes music by Broke For Free, Christian Bjoerklund, and Sul Rebel.
For the full story of Sherman County’s efforts to bring broadband infrastructure to rural Oregon, check out NACo’s latest report:
Capital Investments: Counties Drive Economic Growth with Transportation and Infrastructure Innovations.
Released in December, the report describes how six counties in the U.S. are investing in transportation and infrastructure projects to drive economic growth. Read the report