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Carroll County Times
Carroll County News

Tech Council to host Broadband Symposium

Broadband Internet does not just mean fast download speeds and video that's not jumpy. Organizers of the Carroll Technology Council's first Broadband Symposium hope residents will see the possibilities for technological leaps in education, economics, medicine and business.

The symposium, scheduled for Oct. 8, brings together global, national and local tech leaders from the school system, economic development department, and county and municipal government to discuss ways to use broadband to transform Carroll County from a bedroom community to a high-tech hub for innovation.

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Kati Townsley, the council's administrator, said the goal is to help residents and businesses get a better understanding of broadband, fiber optics, wireless and dial-up connections, so they can begin thinking about innovative ways they could use broadband.

"A lot of people don't know what broadband is," Townsley said. "We hope they walk away saying, 'I get it now.'"

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Broadband is a form of high-speed Internet access that uses a wide bandwidth to transmit signals via cable, fiber, wireless and other technologies.

Townsley said she also hopes businesses potentially hoping to relocate to the area will become informed about the potential usage of the county's broadband system.

Attendees will enjoy hors d'oeuvres and demonstrations about how fiber 4K, a connection that enables high-definition video, is improving downloads and Internet connections on televisions.

The global, national and local impact of innovations in broadband on communities will be explained by William Wallace, of US Ignite, which fosters apps with meant for the public benefit; Blair Levin, of the Aspen Institute, an international nonprofit; and J. Ed. Martson, of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce in Tennessee.

The panel will also include Gary Davis, with Carroll County Public Schools; Mark Ripper, with Carroll County government; Jonathan Weetman, with the Carroll County Department of Economic Development; Robert Wack, with the city of Westminster; and Brian Holsonbake, with Skyline Technology Solutions.

A decade ago, the Carroll County Public Schools system, Carroll County government, Carroll Community College and Carroll County Public Library came together to fund the county's broadband fiber optic network.

The system, used for internal purposes for the four stakeholders, was built with additional capacity to eventually be used by businesses and county residents.

According to Davis, the school system's chief information officer, the four stakeholders are using the broadband to meet their needs, and now they want to open it for other purposes, especially economic development.

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The broadband system, which is anchored throughout the county in school buildings, contains higher-grade circuits for business needs, telemedicine capabilities for hospitals and lines for remote offices, Davis said.

One of Carroll's challenges, he said, is that it is a bedroom community, which means people commute out of the county for jobs. Davis said the school system is the county's largest employer.

Davis said the broadband system is important because it will attract tech-based businesses to come to the area.

According to Davis, the school system has saved a lot of money through the broadband system, as it has helped to centralize supplies, created a Voice over Internet Protocol telephone system and offered the ability to hold video teleconferences.

Ripper, chief information officer with Carroll County government, said he wants residents and businesses to understand there is "dark fiber" — fiber that is in place but does not have information transporting across it — ready to be used.

The countywide broadband system has 216 strands, he said, but only one-third is being used by county government, state government, police and fire departments, the community college and the public school system.

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Another two dozen are being used by local businesses, but Ripper said that leaves a large portion of strands that can still be tapped into.

Wack, a Westminster councilman, said the session will help residents understand broadband's transformational potential both economically and educationally. Countywide innovations in broadband will allow Carroll to become a "world-class, high-tech hub," helping to create new jobs and set the stage for countywide growth for the next 50 years, he said.

"Everyone thinks [broadband] is just about Internet speed," said Wack. "It's about the kinds of media you can consume and other types of services you can access."

Broadband can be used for innovations in home security, he said, as well as health care applications and cloud services.

"It's a whole world of things we don't know anything about because we live in a world of crappy broadband," Wack said.

Reach staff writer Krishana Davis at 410-857-7862 or krishana.davis@carollcountytimes.com.

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If you go

What: Broadband Symposium

When: 6 p.m. Oct. 8, hors d'oeuvres and networking; 6:45 p.m. to 9 p.m., panel and speakers

Where: Carroll Community College, 1601 Washington Road, Westminster

Cost: $10

Speakers

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•William Wallace, US Ignite

•Blair Levin, Aspen Institute Communications & Society Program

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•J. Ed. Marston, Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

•Mark Ripper, Carroll County Chief Information Officer

•Jon Weetman, Carroll County Department of Economic Development

•Robert Wack, city of Westminster

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•Gary Davis, Carroll County Public Schools

•Brian Holsonbake, Skyline Technology Solutions

Registration is open until Sept. 30. No tickets will be sold at the door. To register, visit http://www.carrolltechcouncil.org.


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