A few weeks ago, the Georgia House Committee on Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications passed HB 282 to the full State House for a vote. This bill could of had lasting effects on both SyncSouth and other broadband initiatives across the state of Georgia. Luckily, the bill failed to pass in the full assembly.
What Exactly Would the Bill Have Done?
According to the bill itself, it is
to allow for public providers of broadband service to provide such services in unserved areas; to provide for a short title; to provide for definitions; to prohibit a public provider from providing broadband service to areas that are not unserved
Well, that isn't too bad, right? You would think not—however, there's more to it. Those definitions that are provided are incredibly narrow. The definition of broadband is outlined as "Internet access service with transmission speeds that are equal to or greater than 3.0 megabits per second in the faster direction". Even the FCC's modest definition of broadband is higher at 3.5 megabits per second. Even that, however, isn't enough to watch Netflix at high quality and still use the internet for anything other than checking email.
More importantly than the narrow definition, however, is perhaps the scary idea that this is neither the first nor the last time such legislation to limit competition in rural broadband. With the backing of he Koch Brothers, similar legislation passed in North Carolina and even this bill is the second bill to be presented in Georgia.
With ever-widening majorities for political parties in many southern states, it's more important than ever to find your representative and contact them to voice your opinion that municipal broadband is an important step to get the internet out there for all.
So I was in Orlando 2 weeks ago for the Florida Educational Technology Conference. It was an amazing week of learning and networking. With the push of BYOD in the workplace, as well as K-12 schools nationwide, the obvious focus this year was on exactly that. I picked up a lot of good pointers for implementing BYOD and hope to start helping the schools in our region implement it. For those who don't know, BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is just another push to get technology in the hands of our kids to enhance the learning experience. With the number of schools in this region hurting for money to provide adequate technology, the state making a push for more online based testing and a 1:1 computing initiative, BYOD is the only thing that makes sense. Whether it be a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, the majority of students from 7th grade on through 12th have access to some form of computing device. This will take the focus off of the school systems that don't have money to provide some sort of 1:1 computing. This may still be in its infancy, but it growing fast. If this is the first time you have heard about it, you can mark my words that it won't be the last. BYOD is coming faster than you may like, so we all need to start preparing for it now.
Tom Bingaman, K-12 Network Manager
Why do I love SyncSouth? Because of the people who dedicate themselves to overcome every new obstacle put in our path. SyncSouth continues to grow and remain profitably year after year. Although we are a public authority, we receive no public funds for operations. This means we wake up every morning knowing we must sell a competitive service in order to fund all our operations.
Although all assets of the Authority are owned by the public, none of our local governments provide any public funds to SyncSouth for our many construction projects. We rely exclusively on our own retail sales to provide all matching funds. To illustrate, for the USDA residential broadband project alone SyncSouth has had to earn over $1,000,000 in income to apply to the project while also continuing to provide other services throughout our region.
So as we enter 2013, I see nothing but good for SyncSouth and those in our region because it is the people who live and work in our local communities and work at SyncSouth who have created, grown and push everyday to make your SyncSouth a success.
— Lee Conner, CEO
I am ready for SGRITA to have internet for all residents. I received a new surface tablet for Christmas, and can not enjoy it due to the lack of good internet service. I feel the frustration of all our future customers, because I can not have residential service worth anything.
In response to our last update, we received a lot of questions about how we're funded. We are funded, in part, by a program in the United States Department of Agriculture. Our services offered to schools—which are unrelated to our consumer ISP rollout—are funded, in part, through the Universal Service Fund. It sounds magical that the government is paying us to improve the infrastructure in the area—sadly, this isn't the case. We really wish that was how things worked, but it isn't.
As you may know, getting funding disbursed from the government requires a fair amount of oversite. The average turn-around time we have experienced with each contract has been about 3 months. This federal money is not for our operating costs, it goes directly to the party the contract was with.
To stay in operation, we must bring in revenue equal or more than our expenditures each month. In other words, we're just like every other small business out there. We're not operating on money from government programs or unearned tax-payer dollars. Any government program money goes directly to our infrastructure projects and any money received through the Universal Service Fund is in exchange for services rendered (at a substantial discount) to eligible institutions in our area.
In our first employee spotlight, we're highlighting one of our newest hires: Katherine Chapman. She hasn't been with us long, but if you're one of the many K-12 schools that we support, you have probably felt her impact already. We posed these 5 questions to her so we could learn a little about her past and her role here.
SyncSouth.com: What is your position/title at SyncSouth and what does that involve day-to-day?
Katherine Chapman: Customer Service Representative
SS: How long have you worked at SGRITA/SyncSouth?
KC: 1 month
SS: What is your earliest/fondest memory involving technology?
KC: Getting an Apple computer in the 1980's from Santa.
SS: What do you enjoy doing most in your spare time?
KC: Spending time with my family and friends. Going to the beach.
SS: What is your favorite thing to do online?
Stay tuned for more employee spotlight. And, for more information about employment opportunities with SGRITA and SyncSouth, please visit our Jobs page. To find out more about us and our company, vist our About section.