Fairgrounds to Upgrade Internet Access

by Elizabeth Pitts-Hibbard

The Stephens County Board of Commissioners approved an upgrade to internet access at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center at Monday’s regular meeting. The existing service has posed challenges due to differing service providers at the Expo buildings and the office building, resulting in not only reduced service for the Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system that was recently installed county-wide, but limited the ability of clients to livestream events.

“We’re one internet [provider] in our office, and the other buildings [had] another internet,” said District 3 Commissioner Russell Morgan, who also oversees the Fair and Expo Center. “It just made sense to go with one internet. The internet that’s in our office can’t provide us with what we need.”

Morgan said that Sparklight, the provider for the Expo Center buildings, originally suggested running underground wiring to the office building. “That was going to involve lots of work,” Morgan said. “Busting up the paved parking lot, and all that. We thought about overhead for about ten seconds and decided that’s not a very good idea.”

The only other option was to install antennas on the office building and the large Expo arena building to transmit the signal wirelessly. Morgan said that he had gotten quotes and it would cost approximately $2000 to install the antennas.

“We’re going to go ahead and get this Sparklight deal going,” Morgan said. “He’s going to come put the antennas on in a couple of weeks. But when he’s there he can test our internet and see if we’re actually getting what we’re buying from Sparklight.”

Morgan said that the new installation would provide unlimited use, but that restrictions would be put into place for guest access. “We’re going to start changing the password every month,” he said. “Vendors, we give them the password, but we’ve been using the same password for 6, 7, 8 years. Probably everybody in the county has the password and can come in there and get on the wifi.

“We’re going to change that. If you rent the facility [the password] will be given to you and it’s up to you who you give it to. But if you come back a month later it’s going to be a different password.”

At the same meeting, the Commissioners discussed positions on the Fair and Expo Center Board of Directors. They approved the appointment of Clint Williams to replace Todd Brady and finish out Brady’s term, which will end in January 2021. Williams will represent District 1 on the Board. “I visited with him and he seemed very upbeat and concerned for the kids,” said District 1 Commissioner Kreg Murprhree.

The Commissioners also discussed the results of the election of directors on the Fair Board, which included two candidates – Lyle Roggow in District 1 and Jim Hill in District 3 – who were unopposed. District 2 had two candidates, incumbent Brandon Sanner and Jackie Pendley, who filed and will participate in an election on Thursday, January 20 at the fairgrounds.