Commissioners revisit hiring consultant for help with Turner Broadband contract

Published 6:35 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The Decatur County Board of Commissioners discussed hiring an outside consultant to help draft a contract with Turner Broadband so residents in Southern Decatur County can have a more reliable Internet service.

The board voted in January to develop a contract with Turner Broadband owner Shane Turner and a third party consultant, but no progress has been made in three months. Meanwhile, residents who are relying on Turner Broadband’s Internet service are dealing with slow connection speed, and sometimes no connection at all.

A contract is needed to set up parameters on how Turner can attach his equipment to Decatur County-owned poles, how he will improve his service and for how long.

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“We know the organization is providing the county with some services at some locations, so we have that benefit,” said Decatur County attorney Bruce Kirbo. “But we can’t just say you can have access to our poles forever, (that) you don’t have to tell us what you’re going to put up there, and more importantly, we have county residents complaining over and over again about this service. What are you going to do to improve it?”

Commissioner Russell Smith, who has been pushing for a contract for months so he and his neighbors in the south part of the county can have quality Internet service, questioned how much longer residents would have to wait until the service is back on track.

Kirbo said the only way for a contract to be drafted is if he, Turner and a third party consultant came together. Otherwise, it may very well be another three months before the issue is finally addressed.

“I don’t have the ability nor the way to learn the ability to know what needs to go up on these poles to make the service to our county what it should be,” Kirbo said. “I just cannot in good faith draw up a contract that says put whatever you want, whenever you want it, and you don’t have to tell us what you are going to be doing to remedy all the complaints we are getting.”

In August 2012, Turner took over Main Street Broadband after the company went under. Main Street Broadband, LLC, and Decatur County signed a contract in December 2009, with the intention of creating a wireless broadband high-speed Internet service that could provide Internet connections to anyone in Decatur County. The project was included on the project list that voters approved in the SPLOST referendum.

The county overspent its allotted $2.5 million in SPLOST funds on the project. The equipment used to provide Internet to the county is attached to Decatur County towers.