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Authority talks Internet expansion
[February 20, 2013]

Authority talks Internet expansion

VALDOSTA, Feb 20, 2013 (The Valdosta Daily Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- The expansion of broadband Internet service in the greater Valdosta area was the center of most of the discussion Tuesday night during the Valdosta-Lowndes County Industrial Authority regular meeting.

Lowndes County Commission Chairman Bill Slaughter and Wiregrass Georgia Technical College Special Assistant to the President Angela Crance both spoke in support of a unified effort to expand the current broadband capacity for the development of existing and future industry.

Meghan Duke, the Authority's public relations and marketing manager, opened the discussion with her update on the progress of the Authority's new website. The site, which was launched in January, has been adjusted to enable its viewing on mobile tablet computers and smart phones.

Project/Existing Industry Manager Allan Ricketts announced that several industries were interested in moving to the Valdosta area, including a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company and a "national health care service provider" interested in building a telecommunications center in Valdosta. For the second to function, the expansion of broadband in the area is necessary.

"When we ask what companies need, what we've noticed is that it's broadband," Executive Director Andrea Schruijer said. "It's do we have the ability to transfer information over our bandwidth at its current capacity " Limited Internet service is a local problem, but especially troublesome in the rural parts of Lowndes County, Schruijer said. For development to continue, this problem must be solved.

"Broadband is one of the most important tools for development in this community," Slaughter said, responding to Schruijer's comments. "But we have to find a way to get with the providers, see what we have, and where do we start " Slaughter stressed that there are many options available, and there may be further options for the future as the tech industry continues to expand. Crance supported the need for bandwidth from an educational perspective.

Crance stated 14 percent of Valdosta citizens have college degrees, and Wiregrass is making an effort to increase that figure to 70 percent in 10 years.

"We want our children to go to school, and we want them to stay here," Crance said. "We have Internet capability, but only on a limited scale." Broader bandwidth could mean videoconference lessons, especially for students studying health care, and as Wiregrass makes plans to propose a School of Engineering and Science, broadband connectivity will be even more necessary, Crance said.

Authority Board Member Mary Gooding voiced her support of an initiative for broadband, as online degrees through Valdosta State University, and across the spectrum of higher education, are increasing in popularity.

Authority Board Member Tom Call spoke of the need for more bandwidth from a development perspective. He shared an experience with a new housing development that installed fiber-optic cable for its residents, promising high-speed Internet telephone and television among other services, which it couldn't deliver because it had hit a "road block," Call said.

"We didn't anticipate the need for bandwidth," Call said. "I think it's critical." Following the discussion, the Authority took action to allow the sale of a 4.84-acre property leased to MJT, LLC. The property was originally leased in 2003 to American Drill Bushing, which sold its business to MJT. That business is now assigned to Entrada, which plans to purchase the property from the Authority, said Attorney Steve Gupton.

___ (c)2013 The Valdosta Daily Times (Valdosta, Ga.) Visit The Valdosta Daily Times (Valdosta, Ga.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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