The lack of fast, affordable, reliable internet in rural Georgia has been laid bare during the pandemic. With teachers, students, and parents trying to work, teach, and learn from home, families and companies without adequate internet service have struggled. Some school systems provided hotspots if they could afford them, but without cell signal, the hotspot is worthless. Other systems send school buses out to park in areas so parents and students can sit in their vehicle nearby and get work done. This isn’t sustainable. Rural Georgias have lagged behind because elected state leaders, from Governor Kemp’s office to the state’s Public Service Commission, haven’t made rural internet access a priority.
This year there is a candidate who understands that the Public Service Commission (PSC) could help close the gap on internet access for Georgia’s families and businesses. Daniel Blackman and his family live in Columbus, where he plans to serve Georgians as the the PSC’s fourth district representative. (How the PSC is structured, and why all Georgians can elect them regardless of the geographic district is explained here.)
Blackman posted specifically about expanding internet access across rural Georgia in a Facebook thread that merits consideration if you want to elect someone who understands how important affordable, fast, internet access is to the success of all businesses, schools, and families. Someone asked Blackman, “What’s your plan to get internet to those places?” Blackman responded and numbered his ideas:
(1) tap into the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund And encourage more women and minority owned businesses in these areas to subcontract the opportunity
(3) since it is a 6 year-term, I’d like to create a series of regional Utility Stakeholder Forums aimed at educating ratepayers, civic organizations, churches, and schools. This initiative would bring utility providers together with the community to inform citizens, add transparency to the rate-making process, and promote efficient governance of the providers of essential utility services – electricity, natural gas, water, and telecommunications. The goal would be to create a more effective utility policy community…
Blackman added, “to be fair, once elected, I will have a full staff to make recommendations so I would have to look at the industry and what is already being done in the areas that are regulated by the Public Service Commission. ”
The PSC could be more than a rubber stamp for Georgia Power rate increases passed on to its customers. Daniel Blackman is committed to making the commission better serve all Georgians. If you haven’t voted yet, look for Blackman’s name on the down ballot races to help balance the inequities of internet access, and other services, under the PSC’s jurisdiction.