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Vidalia gets grant for broadband mentoring

NATCHEZ — A think tank that specializes in helping cities use broadband to develop economically and socially has committed to provide mentoring services to the City of Vidalia as it seeks to expand its telecommunications infrastructure.

The Intelligent Community Forum has committed to the mentoring relationship through June, according to a news release from ICF.

The City of Vidalia launched the Vidalia Broadband Initiative in 2011, and has announced plans to build a technology center at the site of the old City Hall and install high-speed fiber optic Internet access across the city. City officials have said the fiber optics will allow one gigabyte per second of information to those on the system.

“Rural communities in Louisiana face significant challenges in getting access to broadband,” ICF co-founder Robert Bell said. “Through mentoring, they can learn from the experience of other rural cities and regions that have tackled similar challenges. Even more important, they can learn how to turn their broadband assets into economic growth and solve social problems with them.”

A grant funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 administered through the Louisiana Division of Administration’s Office of Information Technology made the mentoring relationship possible.

Vidalia grants coordinator Teresa Dennis said the city received no funding through the grant, but the state paid the consultants directly to work with the city.

“Seven communities across the state interviewed for this mentoring, and Vidalia was chosen as one of three finalists,” she said.

“This group looks at all of the marketing and infrastructure and social structure (in the community) and tells us where we are and gives us suggestions on how to improve the community through telecommunications.”

City employees and elected officials will be asked to participate in the mentoring.

“Through this initiative, we are confident that our community leaders will learn to maximize the positive impacts of broadband, ultimately increasing broadband adoption and usage among our citizens,” said David Moore, the LDA’s broadband grant program director.

The Intelligent Community Forum studies and promotes the best practices of the world’s Intelligent Communities as they adapt to the demands and seize the opportunities presented by information and communications technology.

The Intelligent Community Foundation consists of 126 cities and regions that have been designated as Intelligent Communities and which participate in an ongoing global dialogue to strengthen local economies. For more information, go to intelligentcommunity.org.