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Graduates of ‘Smart Rural Community’ celebrated

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Many business owners, community leaders and even a few politicians representing the west central region attended a celebration to honor the recent distinction of being named a “Smart Rural Community.”

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Rep. Steve Green (Dist. 2B) and Menahga Mayor Pat Foss attended the ‘Smart Rural Community’ celebration in October.

This national award was given to West Central Telephone of Menahga and Sebeka to highlight how the communities in their service area have been working for nearly two decades building a robust fiber to the home broadband network as a foundation for community development strategies. WCTA, on behalf of the west central area, was one of seven communities to receive this award from the The Rural Broadband Association (NTCA) and the only to receive the Paradigm award.

The Paradigm award represents a model that can be replicated in other communities and, in this case, was given to WCTA because they deployed broadband and involved their community schools, governments and residents to market, educate and most importantly, benefit from the broadband.

The event was held Thursday, Oct. 24 at Blueberry Pines in Menahga and was considered a “working celebration” where attendees were asked how they could market the area as a Smart Rural Community to the community’s advantage. The top ideas included working in cooperation with local civic and commerce groups to promote the benefits of a smart rural community and reasons one would locate here.

Guests said broadband was useful to work from home, attracting new residents to live and grow the area with broadband online business opportunities and Wi-Fi buses.

Bill Coleman, of Community Technology Advisors, facilitated the meeting, calling out attention to the many people who contributed to being designated as a smart rural community, including area schools, hospitals, businesses and community leaders. He encouraged attendees to promote this community-wide distinction by working together to pursue some of the broadband project ideas listed.

Dr. Stacey Stockdill, CEO of EnSearch, Inc also spoke to the group about how fortunate the area is to have WCTA’s fiber optic broadband. She shared a map of the 5-county region that showed large gaps in broadband availability outside of the WCTA service area, and explained how members of those communities are spending all of their time and energy simply trying to get broadband, whereas in the area people can focus energies on other projects.

She also discussed how impressive it is how rapidly the area residents, schools, clinics and governments have embraced the technology.

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