It’s good Lowndes County is finally doing something about Internet access.
Windstream presenter, map, Lowndes County officials
It took a pandemic to impress upon the county that fast Internet access for everyone really is necessary, and Windstream volunteering, plus state funding, but something is apparently finally happening. Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter thanked state Senator Russ Goodman for helping.
Slaughter also made it clear that Windstream would be making all the decisions about deployment. Slaughter emphasized that the county would be working closely with windstream, but apparently the county’s role is mostly telling people about it.
Slaughter said information about this program would be available on the county’s website, but I can’t find anything on lowndescounty.com.
Here’s a LAKE video playlist:
Video: Windstream Proposed rural Fiber Internet @ LCC Rural Internet 2022-11-07
Lowndes County Commission Chambers, Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, November 7, 2022.
Video by Gretchen Quarterman for Lowndes Area Knowledge Exchange (LAKE).
According to Terry Richards, Valdosta Daily Times, November 8, 2022, Lowndes tapped for $40M broadband project,
Of the $40 million price tag, Windstream is putting up $18 million while state grants will cover the remaining $22 million, said Michael Force, who oversees Windstream operations in Georgia.
Slaughter said the project aims to provide broadband internet access to 18,000 homes in rural Lowndes County that are “unserved or underserved.”
This map shows where a new $40 million project plans to roll out fiber optic broadband Internet in Lowndes County.
By Terry Richards email@example.com
According to Bill Slaughter, “The target goal is 2026.”
The VDT story says:
The deal with Windstream is not exclusive, meaning other service providers are free to operate in the same coverage areas, he said. In decades past, County Commission had offered exclusive franchises to cable TV systems which locked out competitors.
Pricing will be “consistent with market pricing” and installation will involve both above-ground and below-ground work, Force said.
In the meeting somebody else from Windstream said there is an Affordable Connectivity Program that offers $30/month.
According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC),
The Affordable Connectivity Program is an FCC benefit program that helps ensure that households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more.
The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.
The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
Who Is Eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program?
A household is eligible for the Affordable Connectivity Program if the household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, or if a member of the household meets at least one of the criteria below:
You can apply online: https://www.affordableconnectivity.gov/
Michael Force of windstream said, “It will be all fiber… multi-gig-capable.”
Note “capable,” not that they will actually deliver that.
Also stay tuned as to whether this will become another tool for the county to drive subdivisions into rural areas, like water and sewer and roads. Wireless would be less amenable to that misuse.
But at least they’re doing something. That’s a big change.
Back in February 2013 Lowndes County Chairman Bill Slaughter told the Valdosta-Lowndes Industrial Authority that broadband is “one of the number one issues.” This was in a VLCIA meeting where:
Internet access (as "telecommunications infrastructure") came up in Project Manager Allan Ricketts&http://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/2013/02/broadband-on-the-table-vlcia-2013-02-19.html#39; report as a requirement for a Fortune 500 customer service operation and for a National health care service provider, both considering locating here, also as bandwidth, as a requirement for jobs. That was the main theme of Executive Director Andrea Schruijer&http://www.l-a-k-e.org/blog/2013/02/broadband-on-the-table-vlcia-2013-02-19.html#39;s report, especially in rural parts of our county, especially for a home-based call center. Even Rotary Clubs need broadband.
In October 2013 he had backslid to “We have broadband.”.
About the Internet, Slaughter said “We have broadband” and “his researches” show that the only problem is when lots of people use it it gets slow connecting to the rest of the world. In answer to a question from Bill Branham, Slaughter said yes we have 4G (we do, but that doesn’t mean everybody has it) and we even have 5G (which was quite puzzling, since that isn’t expected anywhere until 2020).
Well, we sort of have 5G now, but that still doesn’t solve the problem, because still not everybody has it. It might solve the problem if it was more widely available and affordable. Which the county could promote by offering for example educational subsidies and provoking providers to bid against each other. But they didn’t.
Also back in 2013:
Actual rigorous research shows that for income, jobs, and creative workers we need as many people as possible to use fast affordable Internet connections adoption matters more than availability, and speed matters for creative workers. That research demonstrated causality. In addition, a smaller study showed a correlation of broadband fiber with higher house prices, which maybe means some people do care about fast Internet access as part of a house purchase package. And no, most people around here don’t have broadband; many don’t have Internet access at all because they can’t afford $60/month. Even those who do have 6 Mbps Mediacom links don’t really have broadband of a speed that creative workers need.
In February 2014 Chairman Slaughter said he had a five year goal of making broadband available, possibly including a fiber ring, and he was working with the City of Valdosta.
Five years later, in April 2019, was the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative 2019-04-26. It was a bit myopic, not including the general population among stakeholders, but it did include something Lowndes County usually omits: “or wireless.” Back in January 2013 I posted a plan by industry expert Susan Crawford on how to get providers to actually compete and how that plan could be adapted to a county or regional plan. I askled, “Who among our elected leaders, or other organizations such as the Chamber, is willing to step up and start an open process to get us fast Internet access?”
So far, nobody. It’s good Lowndes County is finally doing something, but it doesn’t seem to include wireless, and this was a telling, not an open process.
Me? Despite AT&T running fiber down Hambrick Road within 900 feet of my farm workshop, no, we can’t have access to it. We have AT&T’s DSL, which is allegedly 3 Mbps, but usually isn’t, and has frequent and increasing outages. Also, they don’t really support it anymore. We tried Verizon’s Home Fusion 4GL service, which is flaky. Finally something that mostly works: Starlink.
Sure, it’s a bit pricey, at $110/month and $500 for the equipment. And I did have to chainsaw half a dozen sweetgum trees (like sawing gum). But it’s fast, and it’s dependable. It still has occasional few-second dropouts from time to time because of other trees, but that’s way better than minute-long and worse outages with the other two much slower services. And it doesn’t cost much more than a phone line and DSL.
Starlink is still too expensive for widespread use.
But until this kinetic by Windstream project brings fiber that I can use, or something else happens, I’m sticking with Starlink.
Also, back in 2013, VLCIA determined that solar power was something everybody wanted and was beneficial to industry, education, etc. Thus far Lowndes County has looked the other way on that.
Investigative reporting costs money, for open records requests, copying, web hosting, gasoline, and cameras, and with sufficient funds we can pay students to do further research. You can donate to LAKE today!
Pingback: Videos: Strengthening Families, Fire Prevention, Broadband, Public Safety, Courthouse, Delinquency @ LCC 2022-11-07 | On the LAKE front