(8/2015) Every month I receive a copy of the Pennsylvania County News on my desk. Truthfully, on a good month I peruse it, but on a busy month it gets skipped all together. This month, I read it cover to cover. "Broadband: Debating what to Do", "Internet use in Rural Pa: A look at Broadband in Rural and Small Counties, "Public Safety needs
New technology", "Schuylkill County: Project Broadband Radio, "Electronic Judicial Records", "What Next Gen(eration) 911 Means to Counties". For those of you who do not believe that we are behind the technology curve in rural Pa, any one of these articles will change your mind. Our challenge as a community is not simply how we solve the challenges of limited
internet capacity, but more so, who do we partner with to solve the problems. No one interest group will solve this; we need to work with the business community, local government, schools, and residents to move forward. As a County Commissioner I am firmly dedicated to working with all parties to move our community forward on any and all shared issues.
Within the aforementioned articles a clear distinction begins to form about the difference between household internet users and business users. "While households (in rural counties) indicated cost was the primary barrier in obtaining broadband services, 42% of businesses also indicated that higher speeds did not appear available". These
findings parallel an Adams County Connected survey conducted of businesses in the county, which found that while current service was acceptable, the growth of their business required more services not yet available. In my opinion, herein lies the solution to how we improve our overall broadband infrastructure. Businesses need better internet connection speeds than
homeowners, this is not unlike all infrastructure expansion. Our roads are not simply built for cars, but also for trucks with heavy loads. This argument can be made as far back as the first roads, roads built for wheeled carts going to centralized markets. Dense population centers containing businesses, schools, and homes became the hubs of electrical expansion
as well. During the time of rural electrification it was more cost effective for Adams Electric to run services to businesses than homes. While getting electrical service to homes was a priority, commercial needs helped drive the expansion into rural communities. Again, business driving infrastructure.
We must stop looking at internet speed as a luxury for us to whittle away the day posting on Facebook or surfing the internet faster. Increased internet speed drives our economy and the "market" is no longer in the center of town and the "cart" is no longer pulled by a horse. The market is global, the cart your computer, and the roads are
all controlled and built by internet providers not by local government.
Knowing that County government cannot face this problem alone, we’re working with the Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) to host a meeting of local internet providers. With the guidance of our Office of Planning & Development and in partnership with the ACEDC, this Board of County Commissioners believes that an open
discussion with providers is possible to help proactively bring awareness to our growing business needs. With the right approach to modernization we can continue to be a vibrant business community anchored by tourism and agriculture
In May, a wireless internet program was piloted by a group of visionary businesses, County government, and Destination Gettysburg. Now that the system has proven to be a success to more than 1,450 users, we’re reaching out to other communities to see how wireless solutions can add value to their communities.
I have met with Supervisors from Conewago Township to discuss their recreational plans for a newly acquired airport property. Prior to purchasing the property the Supervisors sent out a survey asking residents for input on land use priorities. One area that scored high was to add more parklands to the township. As a result, the Supervisors
purchased the property and set it aside for recreation and park land. The Board is now in the process of holding community meetings to determine the best uses for the park. I met with Supervisors to gauge their interest in adding free public wifi to their facility. Not surprising, the community already had this on their "want" list. With this park really in its
infancy, now is the time for them to budget this into their overall plans. The truth is public wifi will be a small cost for the return on investment to their overall project. I could even envision a public private partnership, where local businesses help defray the costs of the system - it was the partnership of businesses, County government, and our tourism
marketer that made the Gettysburg wifi system a success. Conewago Township has the leadership to find the partners and bring more value to the parklands that their residents want.
Another community looking to add free public wifi to a park is Carroll Valley. In this case they have an existing park poised for an exciting future – additionally, the proposed renovations to their Town Hall located in the park can also be the impetus to bring free wifi to the community. I will be meeting with the Borough manager and Mayor
to discuss the potential of this system for Carroll Valley.
Both of these very different communities are not willing to accept business as usual. They both see access to the internet through public parks as part of the "infrastructure" of modern life and a service they can provide to their residents. And in the end isn’t that the role of government? As a County Commissioner I am committed to solving
our problems by working with our business community, local governments, and residents.
Limited internet access is only one area where I feel that County government can help our residents. To learn more about my efforts to serve the community join me on Facebook at Marty Qually for County Commissioner. If you have questions, please contact me at 717-339-6514 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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