The Boone County Commissioners unanimously approved the renewal of a contract with Comcast that will deliver faster broadband speeds to meet an increased need for video conferencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sean Horan, of the Boone County Information Technology office, described the contract as a replacement for the county’s current Comcast contract. He said the new contract would be more reliable and provide broader bandwidth.
“Up until now, we hadn’t been using video conferencing a lot,” Horan said. “We used it for a few cases from a video-arraignment perspective, for initial pleas … just so they didn’t have to transport the inmate from the jail to the courthouse. With the COVID situation, we expanded that considerably. They’re actually holding a lot more hearings beyond that. The prosecutor’s office (and) the probation office are both able to remote in to the courthouse. … We’ve actually opened it up to defense attorneys, depending on the situation, as well.
“We are basically able to continue to hold court without actually having people in the courtroom besides the judge. So from a safety, social distancing perspective, it’s much safer that way.”
Because of the increased usage of video conferencing, the county hit its current circuit’s threshold, Horan said.
Horan said the county’s current Comcast circuit has 300 Mbps download and 30 Mbps upload speeds. The new circuit will provide 500 Mbps download and 500 Mbps upload speeds. The circuit will use fiber optic cable, compared to the current circuits, coaxial cable, to provide the faster download and upload speeds. Horan, during the commissioners’ Aug. 31 special meeting, said the cable would be installed in an estimated 100 days.
The contract will cost the county approximately $10,000 more a year, officials said.
“There’s only so many providers in the area,” Horan said. “And if you go to that level of bandwidth, they’re all about that same price.”
Boone County Commissioner Jeff Wolfe said the commissioners felt the circuit would fit the parameters of the CARES Act, possibly allowing the county to seek reimbursement for the circuit’s cost.