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North Florida rural counties struggle with Internet service

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Several rural counties in north Florida are struggling with high-speed Internet service after an agency created in 2009 has become unreliable, and some customers have moved on to other sources for Internet service, local officials said.

According to The Gainesville Sun, the North Florida Broadband Authority was formed by the North Florida Economic Development Partnership to provide fast Internet access to residential and business customers.

With a $30 million grant, the authority built a network that includes antennas on over 90 towers.

However, a shortage of customers forced the authority to find a private owner to take over the network when the grant expired in 2013. Affiniti of Austin, Texas, signed on to run the network but pulled out within a year.

“We’re right back where we started,” said Tommy Langford, a former Gilchrist County commissioner who served as chairman of the authority. “At 2 a.m. you’ve got pretty good speed because nobody’s on it. During peak hours – 8 to 5 – it’s almost impossible to use it. It’s very, very slow.”

U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho‘s staff said Yoho convened a couple of meetings with constituents interested in improving service after noticing a trend of connectivity problems during small business drop-ins throughout his district.

Yoho spokesman Brian Kaveney said the purpose wasn’t to revive the authority, but simply to gather information and discuss possible avenues for the future.

The agency’s acting general manager, Kirk Reams, didn’t respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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