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Commission talks about wireless internet

The first tower site is expected to cover the pictured area of Washington County.

By MARINA WATERS

Staff Writer

[email protected]

BrightRidge’s initiative to provide wireless internet for folks in rural areas was discussed by the Washington County Commission at its monthly meeting on Monday, Oct. 22.

BrightRidge Chief Broadband Officer Stacy Evans presented the broadband initiative plan to offer wireless internet to customers in Jonesbrough and Washington County, which will include placing three tower sites throughout the county for phase one of the plan.

“Our board has been great about seeing that this is not just about the high-density, populated urban areas,” Evans said, “but also the rural areas.”

BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said the company wanted to offer services to help its current customers, local economic development and local schools. Part of that plan includes offering internet access to students.

Internet will be available to Washington County’s 14 schools, but Evans said through the initiative, the company plans to reach students in rural areas who currently don’t have internet access at home. Commissioner Kent Harris, who at last month’s meeting requested that BrightRidge hold the presentation for the commission, said that a lack of internet access for students is an issue in his district.

“A lot of people I know have no internet service,” Harris said. “I live in Limestone which is a very rural area. The only internet you can get now is through a satellite and it’s limited on speed, how much time you can buy. There’s no unlimited options you can have. The children can’t even do their homework. They have to go into town. A lot of them go to McDonald’s I think to use their internet just to do their homework.”

Evans said after an ongoing study is completed, Washington County residents will be able to put in their address and see during which phase BrightRidge will bring wireless services to their area.

Commissioner Suzy Williams asked how much such services would cost BrightRidge’s customers. Evans said that is yet to be announced.

“We’ve got those (costs) established, but we have not released those publicly,” Evans said. “We will very soon. We have looked at what the competition is providing in terms of services and we want to be very competitive with pricing but we also want to provide a superior product with the speed. When you see this, you’ll find that our price is in line with what you’re paying.”

In addition to learning more about the broadband initiative, the commission moved to dissolve the athletic facilities task force in a unanimous vote.

The task force, which was created to bring a recommendation to the commission on the county’s upcoming sports complex on Boones Creek Road, held its final meeting last month when Johnson City opted out of the joint athletic facility venture. That decision led commissioners to discuss dissolving the task force at last month’s meeting. The commission also decided that all business related to the complex should go through the county’s Commerce, Industry and Agriculture Committee.

Commissioner Phil Carrier, the CIA Committee chairman, said that during the CIA’s Oct. 3 meeting, the group voted to view the results from the athletic complex’s previous studies at the upcoming November meeting.

The CIA Committee, along with the county’s other committees, will meet on Thursday, Nov. 1. For times and locations, go to http://www.washingtoncountytn.org/events.