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Community meeting to gauge broadband interest in county

A community meeting will provide a forum for Franklin County residents to show their interest in countywide broadband to a prospective broadband provider.

The community meeting is set for Thursday, October 26, at 6 p.m., at Phil Campbell High School Auditorium. The event will be hosted by the Franklin County Water Service Authority, which is charged with overseeing and managing countywide broadband after Franklin County citizens approved a ballot referendum in 2014.

Steve Foshee, President/CEO of Tombigbee Electric Cooperative, will speak at the meeting. The Tombigbee Electric Cooperative created Tombigbee Communications, LLC, a company that, according to its website, provides “world-class, ultra-high-speed internet using fiber optics through its freedomFIBER services across northwest Alabama.”

Tombigbee Communications is currently building a network in the cities of Hamilton and Winfield. The company is headquartered in Hamilton. The freedomFIBER program ranges more than 200 miles across northwest Alabama and the company says it plans to expand into the remainder of Marion County, into Lamar County and the cities of Haleyville and Fayette in 2018.

Doug Aaron, executive director of the Franklin County Water Service Authority, said the meeting will help the Franklin County Broadband Task Force determine whether there is sufficient local interest to present to freedomFIBER.

Why reinvent the wheel?,” Aaron said. “These folks have a baseline and direction. Why can't we step in and help them and benefit all of Franklin County?

We've been tasked to do this. The task force is a good thing but they don't have authority. We have the authority and we need to move ahead and we want to move ahead,” Aaron added.

Aaron hopes to see a good turnout at the meeting to show there is a local base of support and prospective users to present to freedomFIBER in hopes of having them begin operations in Franklin County.

We need to get people in the seats for this meeting to find about the community's interest in this,” Aaron said.

Fiber optic networks like the ones used by freedomFIBER offer a higher, more consistent speed than other forms of internet. The service is not metered, so customers have the same amount of internet available at month's end they do at the beginning.

The company says it will offer two speeds: 100 Mbps (up and down) or 1 Gig (up and down), with service sufficient for online gaming and streaming.

Fiber optic technology consists of bundled tubes of glass that transmit messages modulated onto light waves, according to www.freedomfiber.com.

The company pledges to provide the capability for users to “download and send large files in seconds, stream high-quality television or video conferences seamlessly, download entire HD movies in minutes or stream multiple videos simultaneously while maintaining enough connectivity to browse the internet.”

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