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Commissioners set fees for broadband access

Posted: January 3, 2013 - 9:53am  |  Updated: January 6, 2013 - 1:04am
Commissioner Ron Thigpen (left) presents the Employee of the Month award for January to Chuck King of the county's Geographic Information Systems Department.  Photo by Barry Paschal
Photo by Barry Paschal
Commissioner Ron Thigpen (left) presents the Employee of the Month award for January to Chuck King of the county's Geographic Information Systems Department.

Customers soon will be able to rent access on Columbia County’s new broadband network after commissioners Tuesday began setting up fees they’ll charge.

Commissioners unanimously approved the first reading of the fee schedule, with final approval expected at the commission’s next meeting Jan. 15.

“Once the rates are officially established, companies will be able to sign up immediately,” said Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson.

The fees for leasing access to the recently completed, 220-mile, $18 million network of fiber optic cable and wireless communication towers were devised by Jacobs and Magellan Advisors, hired to recommend appropriate rates, Johnson said.

“These are market rates,” he said. “We’re not trying to undercut anybody. We worked really hard to try to make sure we were in the middle of the road as far as rates were concerned.”

With a network activation charge of at least $1,500 and monthly access fees ranging from $500 to $15,000, the utility won’t be aimed at individual home Internet access, Johnson added. “We’re not competing with the AT&T’s of the world for retail customers.”

Instead, he suggested, a company such as Comcast could expand its territory by renting space on the county’s network rather than laying its own lines.

In addition to commercial customers, the network will be available to “strategic partners” such as governments and medical facilities that were part of the original proposal for the $13.5 million federal grant that paid for most of the utility, Johnson said.

That includes the school board, which he said could save “a tremendous amount of money” by using the network to link county campuses.

Much of the funding for school access comes from the federal E-Rate. That program entitles educational facilities to lower-cost technology access and provides federal grants to pay for it with money from assessments on communications providers.

Columbia County already has filed to be eligible to receive E-Rate funding, Johnson said.

OTHER ACTION:

• Commissioners re-elected Ron Thigpen as vice-chairman.

• Chuck King, with the county’s Geographic Information Systems Department, was named Employee of the Month for January.

• Commissioners unanimously approved a rezoning to allow reconfiguration of lots in the rear of the Indian Springs subdivision in Grovetown. The change allows the developer to reduce setback requirements to avoid wetlands, and also will give part of the site to the county as greenspace and provide access to the Euchee Creek trail system.

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Comments (13)

wribbs

They didn't know what they

They didn't know what they were going to charge for the service before they spent the money to build the network?Oh, I guess that works in the magical world of federal government money falling out of the sky.

Another point. They are using money that was taken from private companies in the form of taxes to compete with those same companies. This money was GIVEN to them in the form of a grant so they have no incentive to make this work. If it does, great, if not, no big deal.

AugustaCableGuy

"Free Internet!" That's the

"Free Internet!" That's the only thing that people want out of this, and that's been the case since day one of this project. As for the companies that are already the service providers in Columbia County..... They've already spent the money and now you want them to spend it again? I can't tell you how many times that customers have told me that they don't need internet service because it's free in Columbia County. There will always be a spin on this to make it look like the county is the hero.

soapy_725

Government grant money from US....

the taxpayers who will not see any benefits. Knology, etc., were never going to rent this network. It was on the list and CC saw an opportunity to spend some more taxpayer money. CC created the spin. Government grants are not "free money". Taxpayers pay for grant money. Each of us, taxpayers. Those that do not pay taxes, it is a another freebie. They could have widened Washington Rd to Pollard's Corner. No they widened Appling Harlem because it is Federal Highway, US 221. CC public servants do nothing but look for ways to spend money. You would think that each and every one of them was female. A couple of them may be in drag.

ripjones256

You've BOTH Missed the Boat

I do have knowledge of this project. First and foremost, grant money is FAR from GIVEN. You would not believe the amount of paperwork that is required for a grant. Since I do "a little" volunteer work for the County, you would be amazed @ the hoops the County has to jump through, for grant funds. Several government agencies, as well as the local hospitals were all contacted about this project. I for one, had a great conversation with the IS people @ the County. CIOs of both UH and MCG were in conversations together about this. The County is not out to "make money" on this, but they do need to have money for maintenance of the network fiber. @AugustaCableGuy, you're tag says it all. As far as the "service providers" that have already spent the money - there are plenty of places within Columbia County that cable/Internet service is still only a reality, if the customer wants to pay for the cable to be run. This network would allow the provider to have a fiber run, to some of these locations. Lastly, it allows the County to have connectivity with all of the County Government locations - Fire/Sheriff/Water/DNR. I personally think it is a great thing that has been done. They should be praised for what they've done, not slammed.

wribbs

@RIPJONES

"First and foremost, grant money is FAR from GIVEN. You would not believe the amount of paperwork that is required for a grant."

Do you have any idea how hard someone in the private sector would have to work to make thirteen million dollars? You sound like a welfare recipient justifying receiving their check because they had to stand in line all day. Unbelievable.

ripjones256

Trust me, I'm not on welfare.

Trust me, I'm not on welfare. I also understand how much work would be involved for $13M. But I also see the big picture benefit this network has the potential to provide to all of us.

AugustaCableGuy

@ ripjones256

"My tag says it all?" I guess yours does too? I made a point. You made a point. Thanks!

wribbs

Let's assume AugustaCableGuy

Let's assume AugustaCableGuy works for / owns a company that provides connectivity to residential and business customers.

AugustaCableGuy was FORCED to pay taxes to the federal government on the profits his business made. The federal government took that money and said whoever wants it can have it if you work real hard and fill out a bunch of paperwork. Columbia County hired RIPJONES who knows the maneuverings of the bureaucracy to get that money and now they compete with AugustaCableGuy.

The government has totally screwed up this marketplace. Instead of letting businesses figure out how to offer the service and make a profit, now there is no incentive to develop new ways to offer broadband in rural areas, because everyone knows the government will come riding in on taxpayer money and undercut whatever solution they have developed.

AugustaCableGuy

@wribbs

I'll make a deal..... Give me the 13 Million and you can all use my wireless connection.

ripjones256

The County Is Not Trying to Compete

The County is providing a piece of infrastructure that has value to the County for their interconnectivity of County facilities, as well as additional capacity for commercial interests that might not find it financially feasible to do this 200+ mile fiber optic run themselves. I work downtown, and don't have the patience needed to fill out the grant paperwork. P.S. You can all use my wireless connection for $12M... : - )

Discussionstarter

I pay huge taxes and I am not sure what I got from this deal.

The county could have set up wi-fi county-wide.... for all taxpayers to enjoy. I guess I will just keeping paying ComCast my big bill every month so I can use the internet.

wribbs

as well as additional

as well as additional capacity for commercial interests that might not find it financially feasible to do this

A business can do the math and figure out it's not worth doing. The government can do the math and determine it's a viable business.

That is this country's debt crisis in a nutshell.

ripjones256

The County Does Provide Wi-Fi in Certain Places

Like Richmond County has wi-fi @ Augusta Commons, Columbia County provides wi-fi @ Town Center Park. I think it is also @ Patriot's Park. You can call 311 and find out for sure.

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