North Florida Broadband Authority Network Available
Three years after organizing, nearly half of the counties involved in the "North Florida Broadband Authority" have dropped out and another is considering the same thing today.
Gilchrist County commissioners are meeting to decide whether to withdraw, joining counties like Columbia and Dixie.
They won a federal grant in 2010 to bring high speed internet to underserved, rural areas.
The NFBA board met today also.
The main purpose for the meeting today was to explain why counties and cities should be supporting the NFBA.
Since the project started back in 2009, seven counties have pulled out and now board members with NFBA hope those counties will get back on board.
"The network is designed, it's built and it's ready to be used," said Tommy Langford.
More than three years after the North Florida Broadband Authority was created, Chair Tommy Langford says the service is now available.
NFBA was created in 2009 to bring high speed internet service to rural and underserved areas of North Central Florida.
The NFBA was awarded a federal grant as part of stimulus money.
"When it was first organized and the grant was applied for, the counties entered an interlocal agreement to form the NFBA and become part of it," said Langford.
When NFBA first kicked off 14 counties and eight cities supported the project.
"We have had people come and we have had people go," said Langford.
As time passed counties started pulling out and now these are the seven counties that have stuck with the project Gilchrist, Jefferson, Madison, Levy, Union, Putnam, Hamilton.
Wakulla County later joined.
Anthony Wilhelm with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration said he hopes those counties that dropped out will join back in.
"The network is at a point now where they really need full support of the communities out here," said Wilhelm.
NFBA is working through private providers to get the broadband service for residents in those areas. Wilhelm said there are currently less than 100 customers using the network.
"When we talk about customers it's important to say these are institutions, these aren't households, but we are really talking institutions like schools, and hospitals and sheriff's offices and county annexes, even some businesses in the community," said Wilhelm.
During the meeting board mebers expressed how they believe this network will bring economic development, opportunities and will benefit businesses and schools.
"Our schools need higher bandwidth. Our kids are now using the tablets and they are taking their tests online. If they don't have broadband they are going to be just such in a disadvantage," said Wilhelm.
At the meeting , Walter McKenzie with the town of White Springs made this statement:
"The next time my economically depressed area has a chance to go to washington, they'll say the last time we gave you guys money half of you backed out," said McKenzie.
Board mebers are hoping the seven counties that backed out of, will soon support the NFBA.
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