ST. GEORGE — A citizen-led operation to improve reliability of high-speed internet connectivity is underway in St. George with two meetings scheduled within the next month to discuss the issue and figure out how the issue can best be approached and resolved.
The Connect St. George group, which is leading the project, includes St. George residents interested in providing high-speed reliable internet to the entire town and especially those who currently have slow or unreliable internet.
The group’s work is a continuation of the efforts begun by an ad-hoc broadband committee, initiated by the Select Board nearly four years ago. The board met for about a year, according to State Representative Ann Matlack, D-St. George, “to determine the current options for internet access in St. George and the potential needs and future prospects for improvement of internet access.”
Though the town is served by multiple Internet Service Providers, Charter Communications (more frequently known as Spectrum and Time Warner) is the sole provider able to deliver high-speed internet service.
Since Charter Communications’ service is generally limited to residences along main roads, according to the group, a “large percentage” of the town’s residents are left without access to high-speed internet.
Examples the group gave about what it means to have slow or unreliable internet includes:
• No streaming movies
• No social media
• No video chat
• Cannot reliably send or receive emails with images, videos or documents
• Inability to do homework
• Cannot reliably connect to colleagues or buyers as a business owner
• Cannot access online counseling groups or services
Two months ago, the group was put in touch with Kendra Jo Grindle, of the Island Institute, who advised the group to schedule community meetings to learn the full scope of how residents perceive the problem.
Thus, the group has scheduled a community meeting for Thursday, May 30, at 7 p.m. in firehouse meeting room at the St. George Town Office.
The meeting will be dedicated to discussing the current and future states of internet service in the town. The meeting will look at what having high-speed internet would mean for all residents individually and as a community.
The meeting will be co-hosted by the St. George Select Board, the Connect St. George group and Rep. Matlack.
“My concern about broadband pre-dates my involvement on the ad hoc committee,” Rep. Matlack said. “For many years, I have been frustrated by the lack of reliable broadband service, the expense of connecting to the internet and the relatively few options we have for service, both in my area and throughout the state. I believe lack of available and affordable broadband is an impediment to economic development in our state, along with a problem when it comes to educating our children and affording our seniors the option to remain in their homes longer.”
On Tuesday, June 18, the Connect St. George group will host a community meeting with representatives from Charter Communications. The event will be moderated by Connect St. George and Grindle.
The June meeting’s purpose will be to see how Charter Communications can assist in filling in some of the areas not receiving high-speed internet connection.
“It’s our understanding that the Town is beginning negotiations for a new Franchise Agreement with Charter Communications in 2020. The information we gather from the meetings could help the Select Board with those negotiations,” the Connect St. George group said in a statement. “St George is a great place to live. And, if having access to high speed, reliable internet can help people live here for longer, be healthier, have access to more education, and improve and grow their businesses, it seems like the right place to put our energy.”
Reach George Harvey at: firstname.lastname@example.org.