Recently on Gigabit Nation, host Craig Settles visited with Mayor Max Beverly from Thomasville, Georgia. As our readers know, the Georgia General Assembly is again considering a bill to limit municipal efforts to bring connectivity to local residents and businesses. That bill is currently scheduled to be heard on Tuesday afternoon, 2/26, but many people have already expressed their anger at it in Facebook comments on the bill page.
HB 282 sets a very low bar for what is considered "served" - 1.5 Mbps - and prohibits municipal networks from serving those areas while also imposing a new heavy cost on investing in unserved areas.
Mayor Beverly discusses how he and other Georgia community leaders are fighting HB 282 through education. Speaking from first-hand experience, he finds that elected officials often turn from support to opposition when they hear about the incredible success of Thomasville.
Mayor Beverly finds himself sharing the story of Thomasville's victories that are all tied with the network, created in 1999. In Thomasville:
- direct profits from the telecommunications utility have eliminated city taxes - police, fire, and other city services are funded through the $2 million+ contributed to the general fund
- over 500,000 people in south Georgia have received state-of-the-art healthcare services which could not have been delivered without the incredible capacity of the network over a multi-county area
- over 6,000 jobs (including many in the hospital and its clinics) have come to Thomasville through employers that would not have been able to locate there prior to the services offered through the network
- about 70 schools over a 10 county region receive network services that Mayor Beverly describes as a "game changer" in educational opportunity
Settles and Mayor Beverly also spent time on what makes Thomasville such a success. The Mayor attributes the community's entrepreneurial approach and their unsurpassed customer relationships. The network and its staff are local and accountable to the people it serves so there is no place for anything other than superb customer service.
The business and residents depend on the Thomasville network. Mayor Beverly, like all the other officals we talk to, can't imagine life in their town without the network. While fighting legislation like HB 282, Mayor Beverly has encountered other elected officials from places where community owned networks are being planned or considered. He says that those leaders all have the same message for the legislature: "Our areas are behind now and if you pass this bill we will always be behind."
Listen to the entire interview on Gigabit Nation to learn about Thomasville's incredible network.