Live Oak —
From our readers,
Concerning the Dec. 5 broadband article presented by Bryant Thigpen, I would like to thank The Suwannee Democrat for keeping the public informed. The article brought up many questions that the Broadband Authority should answer. The Internet provided some background on the National Broadband Plan and its intended purposes.
In a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) press release dated May 27, 2009, Acting FCC Chairman Michael J. Copps reported on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 which established several rural broadband initiatives. In this press release, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is quoted, “Providing broadband access to rural communities will not only enhance farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to market goods and enhance production, it will help residents in rural communities obtain needed medical care, gain access to higher education, and benefit from resulting economic activity and job growth.”
FCC Commissioner Michael Copps is quoted on the home page of FCC: Broadband Opportunities for Rural America, “Broadband can be the great enabler that restores America’s economic well-being and opens doors of opportunity for all Americans to pass through, no matter who they are, where they live, or the particular circumstances of their individual lives.” (April 8, 2009)
Under a Rural Development Broadband Loan Program, either public or non-profit rural health care provides are eligible to receive support. Providers can include teaching hospitals or medical schools, community health centers, local health departments or agencies, community mental health centers, not-for-profit hospitals and rural health clinics.
If the North Florida Broadband Authority (NFBA) has obtained $30 million in grant money (taxpayer dollars) from the government, why was the meeting at the Suwannee Valley Electric Coop, RSVP only? Why a secret? Why not open to the public? They’ve spent $25 million of the $30 million obtained to promote economic development, but need to have RSVP-only meetings! Who were the 30 people invited to the meeting? Why have no residential customers been hooked up? Why has there not been a budget submitted to our Board of Commissioners or to any other boards? Where is their financial report?
The Democrat reported that several NFBA board members were present at the private meeting, but none appeared one night later at the commission meeting!
Fifteen counties were slated to participate in this endeavor which could have been good for north Florida. Five have withdrawn.
My final question would be: Is it legal for the executive director of the Florida Institute of Government to receive $10,000 (now $7,500) per month to act as a spokesperson for a group who is supposedly spending $30 million tax dollars to promote the economy? It seems like someone receiving that much money to be an NFBA spokesperson might make a better attempt at earning that money.
From the home page of the NFBA: “The North Florida Broadband Authority, a newly formed government entity established specifically for the purpose of bringing broadband services to the North Florida region, estimates the entire new fiber network will be completed by spring 2012.” What happened?
Hopefully someone out there can answer these questions, maybe even someone from the NFBA. In the meantime, the public needs to pay attention to this issue and to ask questions (just as in the similar situation of the sawmill issue). Tax dollars, confidentiality and secret meetings do not mix.