Originally published Tuesday, October 22, 2019 at 05:44p.m.

KINGMAN – Mohave County has received numerous requests from companies seeking support of their applications to the Arizona Rural Broadband Development Group Program, designed to enable Arizona communities to have easier access to broadband services at speeds and prices equal to national averages.

The issue, introduced by Supervisor Jean Bishop of District 4, who received letters from such companies, proved to be more complicated than one would think.

Bishop said at the recent Mohave County Board of Supervisors meeting that the company she spoke with is seeking $50,000 from the $3 million pool allocated by Arizona Commerce Authority for the program.

“What I would like to do is to authorize you, the Chairman,” she said to Chairwoman Hildy Angius of District 4, “to sign various letters of support because we do need broadband coming to Mohave County.”

While all Mohave County Supervisors agree that providing broadband service to local rural communities is desirable, two of them said an automatic support of each request might be a mistake.

Supervisor Buster Johnson from District 3 said he was contacted by a company providing broadband satellite services in Golden Valley.

“I don’t have a problem with the grant,” he said. “In fact, I think it’s a great idea.”

He was appalled however, after checking what services the company currently offers.

“They offer 25MB,” he said. “This is not high-speed. Twenty-five is barely enough to stream Netflix.”

He was then seeking further information from the company, and they ignored his request for information. Johnson said he believed each company should be reviewed separately to determine if the application is worth the county’s support.

“I am a customer of this company,” said Supervisor Ron Gould of District 5, who also received a letter from them. His response was: “Your service is so poor that my cell phone Internet is better than your service. But if you can show me how this grant would improve your service to my constituents, I would be more than happy to support your bid.”

He never received an answer. Gould said he is not comfortable with Angius having a power of signing every letter of support.

“This is not free money,” Gould reminded his colleagues. “It’s a state, not federal grant. It comes from the income tax that is being levied on the people of Great State of Arizona. I have a problem giving their money to poor service. I would like to see a separation of government from business. Because I believe in free market, not in a manipulated market.”

Chairman Angius reminded that the letter of support doesn’t guarantee the companies will get the grant, since they probably will have to meet program requirements. Eventually, the board agreed to give her a power of signing such letters 3:2. Gould and Johnson voted against.