Polk Broadband Plan - Page 20

Introduction and Background planning is important for any region with a large number of jurisdictions, in order to encourage cooperation and collaboration between them. Like other counties along the I-4 Corridor, Polk County has experienced rapid population growth over the past decade. From 2000 to 2010, Polk County’s population grew by 24.4 percent, compared to 23.9 percent for all the I-4 Corridor counties combined and 17.6 percent for the State of Florida4 (see Table 2). This pattern of growth is projected to continue in Polk County, and the county is also flanked by fast-growing major metropolitan areas to the northeast (the Orlando area) and to the west (the Tampa Bay area). Polk County’s population has also grown rapidly compared to other inland counties to the south, in the region known as Heartland Florida5, where the 2000-2010 population growth was only 10.6 percent. When growth occurs as rapidly as it has in Polk County, planning—including broadband planning—is essential for preserving quality of life and opportunities for all people. Table 2. I-4 Corridor Population Growth, 2000-2010 2000 2010 Percent Change 2000-2010 Hillsborough County 998,948 1,229,226 23.1% Orange County 896,344 1,145,956 27.8% Osceola County 172,493 268,685 55.8% Polk County 483,924 602,095 24.4% Seminole County 365,196 422,718 15.8% Volusia County 443,343 494,593 11.6% Total for I-4 Corridor 3,360,248 4,163,273 23.9% Florida 15,982,378 18,801,310 17.6% There are numerous institutions of higher education in Polk County, granting undergraduate and graduate degrees: Florida Southern College, Polk State College, Southeastern University, the University of South Florida’s Lakeland campus (scheduled to close in 2015), Warner University, Webber International University, and other private colleges. Florida Polytechnic, a newly created state university, is scheduled to open in 2013. Education is critical to quality of life, and broadband is critical to education. Broadband planning is necessary to ensure that the educational institutions in the county (not only the colleges and universities, but also K-12 schools) have access to the best bandwidth possible. As such, the county has considerable potential to develop and sustain a vibrant economy and a world-class quality of life. However, sound infrastructure planning is necessary for the county to live up to this potential, adapt to economic changes, and keep up with the anticipated growth. 4 U.S. Census Bureau American FactFinder. http://factfinder2.census.gov/faces/nav/jsf/pages/index.xhtml 5 DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Highlands, Okeechobee Counties. 18