MOULTRIE, Ga. — During the second day of the state House Rural Development Council meeting Wednesday, presenters discussed the implementation of new degrees, the improvement of satellite campuses and federal and state opportunity loans, but the biggest issue that was brought to the table was broadband internet service.
The meeting at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine South Georgia, began at 8 a.m. with a panel from Deana Perry, broadband director of the Department of Community Affairs.
Her panel covered the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative and the statewide mapping of the areas without broadband coverage.
“Not only does the map approach work, but it can also be implemented statewide,” said Perry. “We’re targeting completion of the mapping in June 2020.”
The purpose of the statewide mapping project, according to Perry, is to precisely map every household where broadband was not available. Both providers and counties alike made an effort to get the numbers to form an accurate map of those places.
“This is a heavy lift to ask of counties and providers,” said Perry. “It’s very costly, there are a lot of resources, a lot of technical aspects, so we’re very appreciative of those counties who have been helping us.”
Many of the commissioners expressed concerns about the lack of broadband coverage in rural South Georgia, where internet coverage is either very small or non-existent in some places. According to George Emami, county commissioner of Monroe County, approximately 55% of residents in the county are without high-speed internet or a high-speed internet provider, and it’s even affecting real estate in the area.
“We’ve had people the day before or the day of closing on a house find out that there’s little to no internet in the area and for some people, that’s a deal breaker,” said Emami.
According to Emami, about 51% of all businesses in Monroe County, especially in its rural areas, are not served, and the ones that are served only have access to the “antiquated” system, digital subscriber line (DSL), which allows speeds of up to 1.5 megabits.
“With that, you might get access to your email, but forget about streaming Netflix or YouTube. Even service industry jobs, which often require uploading and downloading large files types, those speeds make it impossible to operate even a small business,” he said.
The council also heard from commissioners on the subject of new higher education degrees.
Tristan Denly, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs and chief academic officer for the University System of Georgia, introduced 20 of the 300 new degrees that had been offered in Georgia colleges.
Among them were a bachelor’s in technical writing at South Georgia College, a bachelor’s in engineering technology at Valdosta State University and a bachelor’s in respiratory therapy at Middle Georgia State University.
Denly also reintroduced the Nexus degree, which was created in February 2018 and seeks to make public higher education more accessible and suit career needs, and the eDegrees which, according to Denly, will help to graduate many more passionate students.
“It is the first new degree in the United States in almost 150 years. The last new degree was the associate degree in 1898,” said Denly of the Nexus degree. “It is an entirely new type of degree, a degree which bakes into its structure an internship, a clinical placement, a preceptorship, and a faculty designed curriculum.”