Bertie plan could spark economic growth

Published 10:44 am Tuesday, March 23, 2010

WINDSOR – The Connect Bertie plan that will bring high-speed internet to more than 1,400 students will also be an asset to the business community.

Recently, the Bertie County Board of Education approved a plan to implement Connect Bertie, a bold initiative to provide broadband internet to students throughout the county to help aid their studies.

Through an agreement with the school district and provider Century Link, the infrastructure for high speed internet will be placed throughout Bertie County to allow the school district’s students to make use of the worldwide web for homework and projects. That same infrastructure, however, will aid in economic development, according to Superintendent of Schools Dr. Chip Zullinger and other Bertie County leaders.

“This project allowed the school system to use federal funds in a different way to expand learning for our kids,” Dr. Zullinger said. “We also clearly knew that by us taking this initiative, it would double the availability of broadband for everyone else in Bertie as well.”

Bertie County Economic Development Director Steve Biggs said that was certainly the case.

“Any time you improve the infrastructure of high technology, you are improving opportunities for economic development,” Biggs said. “That is part of the way business is done now. You are expected to have high-speed internet. That’s the world we live in.”

Biggs likened the project to one in Greene County and said that county has been successful in using the high-speed internet access to its advantage.

“Anything connecting with computer service or that infrastructure, we’re certainly always in favor of,” Biggs said.

The project also drew rave reviews from Windsor-Bertie County Chamber of Commerce Director Collins Cooper.

“One of the things companies look at is if broadband service is available,” Cooper said. “This is a great thing for the county. It not only will help children, but will also help with economic development. That (access) can be the deciding factor if someone chooses a site.

“I’m 100 percent behind the project,” Cooper said. “I think it’s one of the greatest things they’ve tried to do in the county.”

Bertie County Manager Zee Lamb also applauded the decision made by the Bertie school board.

“I appreciate that the board of education has moved forward with this project,” he said. “It will be beneficial not only to students, but to the entire population of the county, especially those in remote areas that do not have DSL access now.”

All of that benefit was taken into affect by the school board, according to the superintendent.

“If not the, it is one of the strongest economic development moves Bertie County has made since I’ve been here,” Dr. Zullinger said. “Businesses are developed in rural communities because of connectivity.

“Because of the step the school board has taken, Bertie County will be one of the most connected rural counties in North Carolina,” Dr. Zullinger closed.