Two government entities are teaming up for broadband access.

The Franklin County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a contract with the City of Ottawa Wednesday for the city to provide county offices with Internet access. The contract represents a significant cost savings for the county, Dustin Coureton, with the county’s information technology department, said.

“The proposals that we had would more than triple our current bandwidth needs, looking at a 20-megabit connection,” Coureton said.

This service offers the county additional bandwidth for faster download speeds, Coureton said, which makes it a wise choice. In addition, the fact that the city is a “community partner” helps keep money in the community, he said.

“I think it’s a good sign that we can work together,” Commissioner Don Stottlemire said, voting in favor of the contract. “It’s helps them, plus it helps us all at the same time.”

Service is expected to begin for the county April 1, the contract states, with a monthly cost of $695 for a three-year commitment. The county’s previous Internet service provider, AT&T, charged $740 a month for services for a 6-megabit connection. Not only is AT&T more expensive, but the county recently has outgrown its service, Coureton said.

“As more applications have become more dependent on access to the Internet, the county has reached a point the services no longer meet expectations or functionality,” he said in a county study session.

County officials also considered a proposal from Allegiance, which currently is being acquired by BCI Broadband. While that company offered a lower monthly price at $576, Coureton said he recommended the city’s service.

“With the staff’s recommendation, we would go with the City of Ottawa, just based on the infrastructure that we’re currently tied together already,” Coureton said. Both the city and the county have fiber-optic infrastructure in place, he added.

Discussions about the broadband service have continued for several months with the city. In a presentation to the board in October, Blaine Finch, former interim director of the Franklin County Development Council, told commissioners that the city commission had committed in principle to the development of a broadband utility.

The city-county broadband contract is the next step by the city to secure anchor institutions to invest in the project. The City of Ottawa has contracted with the Ottawa school district and Neosho County Community College as anchor institutions for the Internet service. Ottawa University and Ransom Memorial Hospital also were approached about using the service in the future. The broadband utility is not expected to be marketed to individual residents.

The general purpose of the city’s broadband network is to offer potential and current businesses a reliable Internet provider, which in turn could help bolster the area’s economy, city officials have said.