Co-op Weekend Update (1/13/18)

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Welcome to 2018! We had our first board meeting of the year last week, which was actually a make-up date from our meeting in December. There are a number of “moving pieces” going on right now, and so we are stepping up our commitment to you all to keep you informed about what we’re working on currently. This is a long post, but we hope it’s well worth the few minutes to read it.

Canceling our December 8 GT-I Fundraiser was heartbreaking for several reasons. First and foremost, our sponsors and members assisted us with nearly $2,000 in expenses that are completely unrecoverable/non-refundable from the closing of PCPS facilities. We absolutely do not fault PCPS for closing, as the weather truly did get bad that Friday evening. And we greatly appreciate our sponsors: CablesAndKits.comPowhatan School of Dental Assisting, and Current Electric Inc. for their contributions in helping us get GT-I pulled together – much of which can be used for the make-up date and future GT events. Second, the countless hours spent by our volunteers preparing for that night, and our sponsors getting organized to come spend the evening with us.

The delay in getting a make-up date scheduled has been purely financial – it will cost us almost another $1,500 to schedule a make-up date. So we are working diligently to find additional sponsors that can assist us with the event insurance and advertising costs. BUT with that said, FRIDAY, APRIL 20 is our tentative make-up date. This date is not “written in stone” yet because we need the insurance before we can officially reserve the facility. So pencil in April 20th on your calendars. We’ll get the new date posted on the Powhatan GT page, websites, post an event, and open registration sometime this coming week – more details in next week’s update.

We’ll be doing a “Co-op Weekend Update” every weekend from now on as our commitment to better share everything going on with the Co-op. This is especially the case because there’s a lot going on right now in the development of the Co-op. So expect a Saturday Facebook post, as well as we’ll create a newsletter sign-up so you have the option to receive the weekly update as an email.

Our goal for Phase II was to use the fundraiser to raise the funds need for purchasing FiberPlanIt – a fiber planning software that would allow us to build a “virtual” fiber network throughout the county to calculate a near-exact (95-99% accurate) cost for our grant and loan applications which are due before May 1. Because of the event pushing back (tentatively) to April 20, that will not be enough time to raise the money, purchase the software, and conduct the study.

So we need to raise the $15,000 another way, or apply for the software funds through the May 1 grant program, but that will delay the Co-op’s timeline by 12 months in applying for funding to build the actual network because we would have to wait until May 1, 2019, to apply for the network funding if we miss this May 1 (2018).

Phase III is the construction of a Co-op Data Center. We need a location from which all the fiber in our network will start, and fan out throughout the county to provide everyone service. We have an opportunity to work with a family for the private sale of land in an ideal location for this Data Center. However, the Data Center (and the massive amount of Internet bandwidth we’ll have there) also creates some very unique opportunities:

– a Co-op headquarters/meeting place
– a business co-working space and incubator to foster the creation of Powhatan tech (and non-tech) start-ups
– shared business space and resources like computer training labs, conference rooms, printing services, phones, faxing, etc.
– 24/7 access by members to use co-working and lounge areas for Internet access while we’re still building out our fiber network
– potential education/program opportunities with other organizations in the area

We are working with a local General Contractor to design a turn-key facility, and we’re very excited to share this with you in our upcoming updates – we hope to present this at our January 23 Board Meeting. Naturally the cost of this facility and its ongoing maintenance will require recurring funding. Which brings us to our next item.

Our list of needs is growing, but so is our list of supporters and members. One of our new members suggested at the January 2 meeting that we consider a Kickstarter to fund Phase II, Phase III, and beyond. For those of you not familiar with the purpose of a Kickstarter – it’s similar to a GoFundMe, except you are not *donating* your money. You are paying up front for services that you will eventually receive from the Co-op. The idea being that if we have enough people join the Kickstarter, we’ll be able to conduct our feasibility study, start construction of the Data Center, and get our grant and loan applications in for funding before the May 1 deadline. Once the fiber network reaches your house, you would receive services that you’ve already paid for through the Kickstarter. Keep in mind that we’re a non-profit, member owned Co-op, so every service you pay for is patronage that counts towards your equity (ownership of assets and capital credit) in the Co-op.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, at the Powhatan County Public Library in the Large Conference Room starting at 6PM. We hope to see you there!

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