Community Assessment Group and Internet access @ LCC 2013-07-22

Valdosta Mayor Gayle was standing next to the video ghetto after the county’s rather rudimentary SPLOST VII presentation Monday morning, so I asked him why I hadn’t seen anything about Internet access either Valdosta’s or Lowndes County’s SPLOST lists? He said that was because it was being handled by the Community Assessment Group (CAG). What’s that?

Mayor Gayle said CAG is a group of representatives from the county and all the local cities, the two school districts (Valdosta and Lowndes County), VSU, Wiregrass Tech, the Industrial Authority, the Chamber, and he may have said others. It’s an attempt at better local cooperation, specifically about issues that cross all the various local governmental and non-governmental groups. So far they’ve had two meetings, in which they identified three issues:

  1. Moody AFB
  2. Broadband

Moody is of course the issue that has always united most of the community, as for example when the Chamber mobilized opposition to a subdivision near Moody’s front gate last last year, and won. (Briefly. That issue is back. More on that later.) You can see Moody AFB in the sudden bump in 1960 in population of both Lowndes County and Valdosta, and Moody is still the area’s biggest employer. If we ever want to have any chance to broaden our employment base beyond Moody, we need #2. This paragraph is just me talking. Now back to the Mayor.

The Mayor said regarding broadband CAG had had at least one of the incumbent Internet providers speak, and CAG was probably going to go to Stockbridge, Georgia, which was putting in Google fiber, to see how that works.

He said CAG meets again 19 August 2013.

Stockbridge actually isn’t doing Google Fiber, but it is doing something similar. Broadband Communities carried a BBC Wire of 23 May 2013, Stockbridge, Ga. Approves $15 Million Fiber Network,

STOCKBRIDGE, GA—The city of Stockbridge, Georgia has approved an agreement authorizing Community Broadband LLC to develop a $15 million fiber optic network to provide advanced broadband services to governments, schools, and businesses in and around the Stockbridge, Georgia community.

The new network to be developed and operated by Community Broadband will place the Stockbridge community on a very short list of communities which are able to take advantage of the benefits provided by unlimited broadband capacity made available through an all fiber optic network, in a project designed to meet the unique needs of the Stockbridge community.

Community Broadband, LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coastal Asset Management, LLC of Savannah, Georgia, and is the most recent new opportunity developed by Allen Davis who, along with affiliated companies, has developed and managed commercial and residential fiber optic projects in over 100 service areas.

Local interest in doing something like Stockbridge could get the incumbents motivated to offer something better. And, who knows? Maybe the Stockbridge solution is part of what we need here. I don’t think it would solve the low-density rural access issue directly, but it could be a way to connect wireless access points.

It is still disappointing that SPLOST VII doesn’t have anything about Internet access in it. This seems to be due to the desire of local leaders not to spend any money on it. While I’m not a big fan of local governments actually trying to provide Internet access, not being willing to spend any money on any part of it sends the wrong signal to the incumbents.

But at least this CAG exists and is looking into the issue.