my name is h.b.harris. i am affiliated with an ad hoc group of rural eastern north carolina townships and their municipal leaders (a.k.a) the river mayors as they rest along the banks of the roanoke river. this area called the “american paradise” is scenic, picturesque, contains the world’s largest waterfowl estuary and some of the most pristine river water in the country. it also has high unemployment, high dropout rate, health disparities, and a poverty level that causes this region (u.s. 1st congressional district of n.c.) to be in the top five of the poorest regions in the united states.
this region is a well knit gracious and caring people in spite of being resource challenged. a great part of the 20th century eluded them. in the early 1950’s a guy named walt disney chose this area as the prototype for an endeavor he had in mind called disney world. ideally situated equidistant from bangor, maine to the north and key west, florida to the south. the land owners of that time shot the imitative down to insulate the captive labor force they had at hand. to some extent we’ve yet to recover.
“Morning of the World” by Universal Pops on Flickr. Taken from the banks of the Roanoke River in North Carolina.
but now comes along an opportunity that i must personally interject is heaven sent. as the creator is my witness – although i’m not technologically savvy – I am committed, as an educator, to not allow the digital age to pass our people by.
recently the n.c. state senate ratified senate bill 572. this bill allows for tax supported funds to be set aside that would offer, as the bill has coined it, “unaffiliated qualified private providers of high-speed internet” grants to provide service in unserved rural areas. the challenge, as i see it, is that offering grants designated to come from non restrictive general funds is, in essence, skirting around a general protective provision for the population at-large. in n.c., a large percentage of non restrictive funding comes from a revenue stream that is sourced from the local franchise fees that telecom incumbents pay to local municipalities. i see, in this current legislation, no provision that would guarantee universal and equal distribution for the unserved and underserved rural communities which are especially reflective of the demographic previously outlined.
to that extent – senate bill 572 serves, in effect, as a tax sheltered annuity for the incumbent companies who have previously shown little interest in providing services to these marginalized areas. qualified private providers are defined as pre-grant qualified with the state. aye, there’s the rub. this definition protects and at the same time rewards those who have shown no altruism, and proclivity in providing service to these rural areas. our communities have set idly by and watched the incumbents ignore our plight, while benefitting from the reservoir of franchise fees that were designated to remedy this plight in the first place. and this statute now further degrades local initiatives such as the rural broadband services network, chanticlear logisitics, and others which have attempted to be grassroots, cooperative internet service providers. these groups have not been extended an invitation into the “digital sandbox”.
we commit to the following:
“The eradication of community, social, civic, educational, cognitive, digital, economic, personal and spiritual challenges that have historically disengaged those who have become afflicted by marginalization that subverts Total Quality Education.” we will foster this commitment by “all positve means necessary,” such as engaging in forums like this one.
cheikh we ‘ sizwe’ ( a.k.a. ) h.b. harris
… “when the power of love overcomes the love of power then will the world know peace” — jimi hendrix