Tucker’s spotty broadband access a barrier to progressAn image showing the boundaries of the city of Tucker. Image obtained via the city of Tucker
Tucker, GA — A newly released study shows Tucker, like many communities, has uneven broadband coverage in both residential areas and business districts. Around DeKalb County, cities including Chamblee and Stonecrest are addressing the digital divide.
Prompted by 2019 legislation by the State of Georgia to promote broadband access to rural areas, Tucker Downtown Development Authority engaged a civil and structural engineering firm to take a wide-angle lens to the city’s availability and strength of broadband.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted gaps in broadband when students and employees were forced to attend school and meetings online. Lack of ubiquitous broadband is a barrier to education, economic development and telemedicine.
Mayor Frank Auman joined Tucker City Council members and DDA board members to review the study by Foresite, a civil and structural engineering company, in a joint meeting on Jan. 20.
The study found that Tucker needs a broadband master plan to review current infrastructure and integrate technology into existing public works structures, like sidewalks and utility poles. A master broadband plan would take about six to nine months to develop.
As a newer city, Tucker has spent the last several years building and beginning roll outs on master plans for downtown, trails, parks and transportation.
According to Foresite’s study, a broadband master plan does not obligate the city to build out a full network. Instead, the plan should focus on little-to-no cost connectivity for students and at-risk families, cost reduction for municipal sites, improving cellular coverage at key locations and provisioning municipal infrastructure to support future smart city technology.
Foresite broadband expert Lee Comer said technology coming to cities and individuals may sound futuristic, like telehealth equipment that monitors heart functionality and oxygen efficiency. And it costs the same as a fancy refrigerator, he said.
“We are not talking about things that are way off in the distance. The technologies are there today. We just don’t have the infrastructure there to support that system,” Comer said.
Mayor Auman said even though Tucker is not rural, residents and businesses still suffer “exactly the same consequence from exactly the same kind of decision-making. And that’s what we’re trying to work on.”