Nassau County adds support to rural broadband push in Legislature

In a growing county and region, infrastructure leads the legislative requests.

Before Hurricane Ian showed up last week, Nassau County officials looked ahead to the 2023 Legislative Session and what assistance the county would ask of its new legislators. In a growing county and region, infrastructure leads the list.

County Commissioners’ recommendations are going to the Northeast Florida Regional Council, where Nassau County and other local governments in the region can pool their collective needs and influence. Commissioner John Martin is the county’s representative on the Council. 

“Each year, the Northeast Florida Regional Council submits three legislative priorities for the region — so, not for Nassau County, specifically, but for the region as a whole,” County Manager Taco Pope said at the Board of County Commissioners’ last regular meeting. 

“After speaking with our staff, communicating with each of you, the three areas that we believe the regional council should really focus in on is flood mitigation and resiliency, small county infrastructure funding, and then support for home rule.”

Home rule in this case is the ability of individual counties to govern how they would like without what some folks might call state-level micromanagement. 

While we acknowledge there are certain items that are of state interest that warrant preemption of local authority, we respectfully request the Legislature more fully assess the impacts of enacting legislation that limits local jurisdictional control over urban planning and design, land-use policy, housing, tree protection, impact fees, short-term/vacation rental, and other related matters as these types of issues are not universal and are subject to the context of place each jurisdiction is different, Pope wrote in a memo to Commissioners in late September.

Martin asked Pope to explain the infrastructure funding, as well.

“That is like our (Small County Outreach Program) and (Small County Road Assistance Program) grants that we get a lot for some of the road work that we do,” Pope said. “The state of Florida is really taking a proactive approach to providing broadband in rural communities and underserved communities.

“We think that as a region, and part of that region, that’s something the legislators should consider for funding just like any other infrastructure. The same way we look at water and sewer and roads, high-speed internet is now an essential utility that everyone needs to have access to, and we’d like to continue to support the state in those efforts to bring broadband to parts of Nassau County where we don’t have high-speed internet.”

The Northeast Florida Regional Council next meets Thursday at 10 a.m. at its offices at 100 Festival Park Ave. in Jacksonville. The Council’s Board of Directors consists of 35 people, two-thirds of them elected county and municipal officials from Nassau, Baker, Clay, Duval, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties, and one-third gubernatorial appointees.

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook:


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