Local Internet Service Provider Encouraged by Recent Broadband Forum

Jun 05, 2018

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U.S. Representative Doug Collins says a recent town hall meeting with FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the need for better broadband and Internet service in Northeast Georgia was encouraging.

Collins and Pai held the town hall meeting May 30th in Dahlonega.

Collins told those gathered the lack of adequate broadband in rural areas is keeping students, business owners and adult customers from growing and realizing their dreams.

Calling it the Dream Divide, he said where you live should not determine who can take online courses, whether you are able to study at home or just connect back to your business from two miles down the road.

Among speakers at the forum were Georgia State Representative Terry Rogers (R-Clarkesville), Paul Belk, President and CEO of North Georgia Network, Dr. Drew van Horn of Young Harris College, Kevin Woody, a community pharmacist with a store in Lumpkin County, and Steve Fortmann, owner of Paladin Wireless in Royston.

Fortmann said Monday he believes the town hall meeting was a step in the right direction and he says he was impressed with Chairman Pai.

“I’m a small Internet service provider here in Royston, and it was good to hear that the top of the FCC one, is commiotted to solving the broadband problem for rural America and two, he knows it firsthand because he’s from a small town in Kansas,” Fortmann said. “So he was able to explain some programs that they had going on there that would help us accomplish the mission in our communities.”

Fortmann made a presentation at the town hall showing the problem with Internet service in Northeast Georgia.

He said he is inundated with calls from people all over North Georgia and beyond asking for his wireless service.

“I am regularly called from counties hundreds of miles away begging us to come down and fix their Internet service,” Fortmann explained. “It’s frustrating because hundreds and hundreds of customers want our service but a small provider like me, we can’t afford to turn them on. Once we are able to turn (local) customers on it’s transformative. Businesses can expand their business, students can do their homework online. It’s incredible.”

After the forum, Pai said the FCC is committed to making sure everyone has access to high-speed Internet.

“It was incredible to see some of the energy and passion surrounding internet access here in North Georgia, and, going forward, I think the FCC is committed to being willing to partner to make sure everyone in North Georgia, Dahlonega, surrounding communities is able to take advantage of what I call ‘digital opportunity,’” said Pai following the event.

Collins has worked with Pai and the FCC throughout this Congress and introduced the Gigabit Opportunity (GO) Act, which focuses on incentivizing broadband investment in rural communities and dovetails with the FCC’s efforts to expand broadband access.

He said later he is encouraged by Pai’s commitment to expand Internet service in Georgia’s rural areas.

“By having the FCC chairman here today proved the not only what we have talked about broadband being a digital divide but also a dream enhancer,” Collins said. “He’s here to know and hear from the stakeholders. What we saw today was a community willing to come together to solve these problems.”

If passed, the Go Act would also encourage market competition by enabling companies expanding infrastructure in Gigabit Opportunity Zones to expense the cost of any gigabit-capable equipment on the front end.