Improved broadband will propel Ottumwa into the future

Ottumwa is continuing to build on the foundation for a better broadband network.

A year-long process has brought technology expert Craig Settles, of California, to Ottumwa to survey the community's needs and also offered a survey to residents and business in Wapello County to gage the area's level of satisfaction with the current broadband network.

"There was a fair amount of dislike for the services people were receiving and about half the folks felt the service was adequate, but it could be better and faster," Settles said. "So that and some other answers point to some unhappiness that the services being offered aren't great and what people need for the next three to five years down the road isn't great."

Residents who are not business owners or who do not work in an environment like education or health care may feel that the broadband services offered now is enough -- enough to check e-mail and complete simple tasks. However, when keeping in mind how fast and how vastly technology changes, what is offered now may not be enough in the future.

David Barajas, of the Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation, said continuing this process is building a foundation for the future and will be a differentiator to whether Ottumwa will be a leader in the next few years or whether our technology, economic development and more will stagnate.

Creating a better, faster fiber optics network will improve four major areas in the community; jobs, health care, education and quality of life.

"There's a lot to be done here, this is one of those pieces of infrastructure that isn't always necessarily very exciting, but it's one of those things, it's a piece of our foundation in this community that we have to have in place," Barajas said. "We have to get better at if we're going to continue to make the improvements we want to make."

Just some of those improvements include the Market on Main project, the development grant for the 300 block of Main Street and more. As those areas improve, technology has to keep up with it.

As the process continues, another survey will soon be available on the Ottumwa Economic Development's website. While the first survey was a broader, more general one, this survey will get a more in-depth look at the options for broadband in the community and, importantly, how much residents would be willing to pay for it.

Settles, Barajas and other representatives from the community will also be traveling to Steuben County in northeast Indiana next week, where a broadband network is already in place. Barajas said that seeing a model already adopted and integrated into a community will give the project's leaders a better idea of how it will work in Ottumwa.