Polk Broadband Plan - Page 31

POLK COUNTY BROADBAND PLAN EXISTING CONDITIONS Polk County is located in the central inland region of the Florida peninsula. It is a large county geographically (with a land area of 1,798 square miles, the 4th largest county in Florida) and in terms of population (the 9th most populous county in Florida as of the 2010 Census).16 It is approximately midway between the Orlando and Tampa metropolitan areas. Polk County contains areas that are urban, suburban, and rural in nature. The largest city is Lakeland (population 98,589 as of the 2011 Census estimate). 77 percent of the population resides within the Census-designated Lakeland and Winter Haven Urbanized Areas, which include several smaller communities in addition to their principal cities. Some other communities, such as Fort Meade and Frostproof, are more rural in nature and are not part of any urbanized area. A large portion of southwestern Polk County has been mined for phosphate, an important industry for central Florida. Citrus groves and cattle ranches are predominant land uses in the remainder of the county’s rural areas. The Lake Wales Ridge, a geologically and ecologically unique area of higher elevation with numerous lakes, runs roughly north-south through the county. Interstate 4 (which connects Tampa and Orlando) passes through the northern part of the county. Much of the area north of I-4 is par