Blog: Brown Speaks About Campaign Sign Video; Story Travels Globally

July 28, 2010

A local Florida House District 1 candidate  facing accusations around the world that he stole signs belonging to his opponent says he was “set up”.

Republican Greg Brown tells that he was simply doing what he thought he had permission to do when he removed signs belonging to opponent Doug Broxson from the intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 87. It was after dark Saturday when Brown stopped at the intersection after leaving an old-fashioned political stump rally in Jay. Brown said property owner Don Dewrell gave him permission to remove Broxson’s signs.

What happened next became a local news sensation and then literally spread around the world. Click here to read the complete story and see the video.

(story continues below photograph)

Pictured:  Candidate Greg Brown allegedly removes campaign signs belonging to his opponent Saturday night.

Using a night-vision camera, Broxson’s brother videotaped Brown and his wife Jennifer removing signs. Brown has not denied that he and his wife removed Broxson’s signs, but he calls the entire situation a “masterminded set up”.

“They knew what they were doing when the had the camera there,” Brown told Tuesday afternoon. “How far did they go to plot this out?”

The story itself has gone far, making headlines around the world.

“Republican rival Greg Brown sprung removing campaign signs” is the headline in Wednesday morning’s Herald Sun, the largest selling daily newspaper in Australia.

“Geez, if you’re going to steal your political opponent’s campaign signs in the age of YouTube, at least wear a mask,” Internet news site wrote in their story “Hidden Camera Catches Political Foe Stealing Signs”.

On the popular national site The Huffington Post, the story “Sign-Stealing Candidate Greg Brown Caught On Tape” had accumulated nearly 550 comments by midnight Tuesday.

In a statement issued by Brown’s campaign, Dewrell said he granted exclusive permission for Brown to place signs on his property, and “Within that exclusive permission he had the authority to remove any of his opponents’ signs that appeared on my property”.

But Santa Rosa County Property Appraiser records show intersection where the signs were removed is nearly 200 feet from Dewrell’s property line.

Brown said he “was totally under the impression” that the signs removed from the intersection were on Dewrell’s property.

The Huffington Post ended their article with an interesting outtake on the alleged sign theft: “Anyway, it’s a good thing that Brown and his wife didn’t try to pull this crap in Alabama, where they have ways of dealing with sign-stealing thugs”.

And they posted the following YouTube video from Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture candidate Dale Peterson:

(Watch the video to the end to understand why it was included in The Huffington Post article.)

Our blog presents a variety of topics, from opinion based editorials, to news stories that perhaps we would otherwise never cover, to inside information behind the scenes of our stories.

BLOG: Big Change For

July 26, 2010 celebrated a major milestone of sorts over the weekend that we hope will benefit you.

Friday evening, we moved to a much faster dedicated web server. That’s it pictured at the top of the page. We had been hosted on what’s called a “shared server” — a server that contained multiple web sites. But, thanks to readers like you, we had experienced growing pains on that server.

During peak hours, it just was not possible for the server to deliver thousands of requests per minute.  Over the past month, our underpowered little server delivered over 8 million pages to tens of thousands of people.  That, quite frankly, is a huge number of views for a local website and was almost technically impossible for us to pull off with our old server setup. In fact, a small number of our readers would, on rare occasions, receive an error message or notice that a page took a little longer than usual to load.

Friday evening, we moved to our very own, brand-new dedicated server. We are the only company on what is, in simple terms, a mega-server. It’s loaded with all the bells and whistles. We did not change web hosts; our company has been with same web host for 13 years. The web server is connected to eight different major Internet backbone providers with multiple GigE (up to 10,000Mbps) connections.

What does this mean for our readers? First, the end of error messages and slow load times. Second, it means will be able to offer more services and present the news to you in an improved fashion. The new and exciting changes won’t happen right away; there’s lots of behind the scenes work involved.

It also means we will now be able to accept more advertisers. We had to hold back a little bit before due to the technical limitations of the old server. (If you own or manage a business, we’d love to have you as an advertiser. Send us an email, and we’ll talk.)

You are reading from the bottom server in the picture at the top of the page. It is located in a secure facility in the Northeastern United States along with servers for Reader’s Digest, Barack Obama, Yamaha and more high profile companies.

This, by the way, marks the return of our blog column. We’ll work on publishing the column on a more regular basis. The blog will present a variety of topics, from opinion based editorials, to news stories that perhaps we would otherwise never cover, to inside information behind the scenes of our stories.  The column will be available  on our front page and under the “Blog” tab on the top of each page.

We are looking for a name for the column. If you have any suggestions, please pass them along. And don’t forget to send us your news tips and photos to

And, as always, we thank each one of you for reading and being part of the family. We appreciate you.

– William,

*** Here’s an insider secret: We have also started a Facebook page. You can be among the first to join now at

Pictured top: The web server is seen on the bottom. photo, click to enlarge.

Our View: Century Provided Inadequate Public Meeting Notice

July 20, 2010

Letter-sized public notices posted on the door of the Century Town Hall and at the town’s Piggly Wiggly were the only prominent notices given of a public forum held Monday night by the Century Town Council.

The council held the one hour public forum at 6 p.m. to discuss qualification criteria for the town’s eligible citizens to apply for their fair share of a housing assistance grant. did not attend the public forum in order to report the events that transpired because we were not notified of the meeting. No other media attended the meeting. We learned of the meeting from a notice posted on the front door of the Town Hall as our reporter arrived for the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting. We asked at the close of the public forum where public notice had been given that the meeting would take place.

“It was posted at the Piggly Wiggly and around town,” Mayor Freddie McCall responded.

The town typically places paid legal advertisements in the Tri-City Ledger announcing public meetings. The Century Town Council voted over a year ago to also run those announcements with runs most meeting notices at no charge to the town as a public service.

McCall apologized for not notifying the media about the meeting.

One person attended the 6 p.m. public forum, saying he was informed by Council President Ann Brooks that the meeting would take place.

During the council’s regular 7 p.m. meeting, two resolutions regarding the housing assistance grant were approved — 0ne to authorize the town’s applications and one setting criteria by which citizens could apply for the grant money.

“This resolution has amendments that we discussed tonight to be added to the applications and the policies,” Council President Ann Brooks said as she during the regular meeting as read the resolution setting forth the citizen qualifying criteria.  The amendments were not discussed whatsoever during the regular council meeting.

It is not known if the two resolutions appeared on the council’s agenda Monday night; copies of the agenda were not made available to the public.

While it does not appear the Town of Century broke any laws, the Town of  Century provided inadequate public notice of the meeting in our opinion.

Florida’s Sunshine Law is fairly clear that posting a notice on the front door of the Town Hall (and perhaps even at the Piggly Wiggly), probably meets the law’s public notice requirements. But it is also obvious and clearly spelled out in the Sunshine Law that better public notice could and should be given.

“In some instances, posting of the notice in an area set aside for that purpose may be sufficient; in others, publication in a local newspaper may be necessary. In each case, however, an agency must give notice at such time and in such a manner as will enable the media and the general public to attend the meeting,”  Florida’s Sunshine Law states.

An Attorney General opinion included on the state’s Sunshine Law website states “the use of press releases and/or phone calls to the wire services and other media is highly effective. On matters of critical public concern such as rezoning, budgeting, taxation, appointment of public officers, etc., advertising in the local newspapers of general circulation would be appropriate.”

If Monday night’s public forum had dealt with an ordinary event that did not directly impact the town’s citizens, we would have taken less issue with the blunder.

However, Monday’s housing grant meeting dealt with setting criteria to provide assistance directly to Century’s neediest residents. They deserved the opportunity to attend the meeting and learn more about what criteria they must meet to repair their homes under the program. We are sure that the citizens who deal with rain falling into their living rooms, for instance, could provide great insight into how they could be best served with roofing assistance.

For the council to then approve two resolutions immediately after the almost non-pubic forum was also irresponsible. Perhaps the council was attempting to meet some deadline, but that was not mentioned during the regular council meeting. Again, we and the public can only guess what the council  discussed during the public forum.

In the interest of fairness, we should point out that council member Henry Hawkins did not attend the 6 p.m. ill-advertised public forum, but he did attend the regular council meeting and vote for both resolutions.

We also find it inexcusable that no agenda was provided at the meeting to the public or the media.

We were told that new Town Clerk Darlene Peters (pictured) was unaware of the public notices that should be provided to the media and unaware that she should provide agenda copies to the public.

The town’s advertisement for a town clerk stated: “The applicant will also be required to have working knowledge of state statutes and bylaws relating to the duties and responsibilities of the town clerk, local government procedures and office procedure requirements, as well as other office and financial record keeping experience.”

We do not mean to suggest that Century always pay for a public notice in the Tri-City Ledger or the Pensacola News Journal unless it is required by law. Finances are important. But why would the town not post a FREE ad, as they voted to do, on to notify the public of a meeting? Why would they not request the Tri-City Ledger or the Pensacola News Journal run a simple, free announcement of an important public forum? Perhaps the Tri-City Ledger’s deadline for weekly publication had passed at the time the meeting was scheduled. But and the Pensacola News-Journal both update web sites 24/7, and the PNJ prints a daily paper.

And why, especially in light of the Attorney General’s opinion stated above, would the town not call or email the press about a meeting?

We sincerely believe, and hope, that the Town of Century will take note of this blunder and prevent it from happening again. It’s not about providing a piece of paper taped to the front door of  Town Hall just to satisfy the law. It’s about providing the citizens of Century as much notice as possible about what their government is doing.

Our View: Consolidation Vote Should Be Delayed At Least Two Years

February 22, 2010

Tonight, Escambia County’s legislative delegation will likely decide whether or not to send a plan created by the Escambia County Consolidation Study Commission to the Legislature and ultimately to the voters in November of this year.

The vote that should be made by the five members of the legislative delegation is very clear. The plan should be delayed at least two years before being presented to the voters — if it is not killed. Period.

The City of Pensacola recently enacted a new charter form of government; their Charter commissioner took a full 19 months to draft a final proposal.  The Escambia consolidation plan was rushed through in just a few months amid allegations that the committee’s chair and others were conducting business and make decisions via email and out of the sunshine.

Committee Chairman Ken Bell argues in a published viewpoint that his body followed the mandate of the Legislature in forming their final draft. To a lawyer, perhaps. To an Escambia County citizen with walking around sense, no way.

Bell argues that the proposal was presented to the Town of Century, the City of Pensacola and Escambia County by their January 15 deadline. He is correct. But he fails, repeatedly, to mention that it was presented to three governing bodies hours before the deadline. The elected leaders of our county had zero time to review the proposal, question the proposal or provide input into a plan that each of the three bodies has publicly opposed as presented.

readplan.jpgThe spirit of the legislative mandate creating the consolidation study commission was for a group of citizens representing a cross-section of Escambia County to develop a plan and allow the three governmental entities the chance to offer input on the final draft. That did not happen. Century, Pensacola and Escambia County had no opportunity to offer any input whatsoever after the final draft was created.

Century backed out of any support for the plan prior to the consolidation committee’s first meeting. The consolidation committee did present a cursory November status update to the council as required by the Legislature — via the Escambia County Farm Bureau’s member on the committee. The Town of Century’s committee member was unable to update the body that appointed him due to health issues.  No Ken Bell, no heavy hitters from Escambia All for One, none of the show that consolidation committee made for Escambia County and Pensacola. Just the Farm Bureau’s representative reading a set of talking points created by someone else. Sorry Century, that was the best you could get from the committee.

The City of Pensacola failed to endorse the plan. Escambia County, acting wisely on a recommendation of Commissioner  Wilson Robertson, who asked for the process to be delayed two years. We concur.

The entire process was rushed faster than a kid’s science project the day before it was due. Business appears to have been conducted behind through private emails.

There was zero opportunity for Century, Pensacola or Escambia County to have any input into the plan. There was not the first public meeting after the final draft was approved for public input. The total number of Escambia County’s 300,000 residents that were able to debate the final plan? Zero. That’s not good business.

10mile.jpgAnd the commission failed to follow the legislative mandate that meetings be held throughout Escambia County. Bell applauds his committee and subcommittee for hold 85 public meetings throughout Escambia County. How many were held north of Ten Mile Road, Mr. Bell? One. That’s right. One meeting out of 85 was held north of 10 Mile Road. Look at the map. There were 84 of 85 meetings held south of the red line, and one in Century represented by the red rectangle. How is that holding meetings throughout Escambia County as mandated by the Legislature?

The committee, with almost every member living or working in the City of Pensacola, apparently forgot that this consolidation plan was about ALL of Escambia County, not just Pensacola.

It is clear that Chairman Ken Bell and the Escambia County Consolidation Study Commission did not follow the clear instructions of the Legislature. Therefore, it is clear that the members of the legislative delegation — Clay Ford, Greg Evers, Dave Murzin, Durrell Peaden and Don Gaetz — should fail to present the plan presented. The delegation has only two options — kill the consolidation issue altogether, or send it back for two years of work THROUGHOUT Escambia County where the people have input into the final plan.

Today’s issue is not about your support for or against consolidation. Regardless of your viewpoint or ours about consolidation, today’s issue is about a plan being shoved down the throats of 300,000 by 30 people that are not representative of our population. Even consolidation supporters are against the methodology used to create the plan.

How can five members of a legislative delegation and a 25 member committee that did not play by the rules create a new government for 300,000 people? To allow it would be a travesty of the American democratic system.

Blog: What Went Wrong? Mosquito Trap? Drugs? Alien Probe?

February 10, 2010

What in this world, or out of this world, went wrong for it to take hours to identify a mosquito trap as a “mystery object”? Why were deputies and firemen unable to identify an object that was suppose to be clearly labeled as property of Escambia County Mosquito Control?

Perhaps surprising to some, the answer is a story about things that went the right way.

glowing111.jpgThe buzz all over Escambia County Tuesday was our story about the mystery object glowing in the woods of Bluff Springs. Everywhere you went in the county, people were guessing what the object might be. It was truly the talk of the town. Our phone here at rang a lot Tuesday, with people trying to get the inside information. We did live television interviews, and another local web site proclaimed “Alien probe found in Century”. (Alien probe? That was a stretch. It’s Bluff Springs, not Gulf Breeze.)

It all started about 10:15 Monday night when a resident on Dawson Lane off Bluff Springs Road called and reported that he thought he saw a small fire in the woods near his home. Members of the Century Station of Escambia Fire Rescue responded; they did not find a fire. Instead they located a glowing light in the woods.  The wind blowing branches had made the light appear to flicker like a flame to the resident.

Let’s draw a mental picture of the scene. The area of Dawson Road where the object was found is pitch black dark — nothing but woods, no streetlights. The woods were thick and very dark. The object was several feet into the woods.

Following their training, firemen attempted to determine what they were dealing with before they entered the woods. With their flashlights, they could see the light, a battery pack and what appeared to be a cooler.  Some reported to see the cooler smoking. What did their training tell them? Stay out of the woods.

From what they could see from the edge of the woods, the object could have been most anything. Likely suspects were some sort of portable meth lab, a crude explosive device, or…there were lots of possibilities. Mosquito trap was not on the immediate list.

Since the item may have been a meth lab (bad guys can make meth inside a moving vehicle this day, so anything’s possible for a meth head), it might have been a crime scene. Firemen are trained not to walk around crime scenes so that they don’t destroy evidence.

“We followed our protocol for safety and to protect and preserve any possible crime scene,” said David Adams, a volunteer for the Century Station of Escambia Fire Rescue. He’s also the Emergency Management Director for Escambia County, Alabama. “We didn’t know what it was. You look at what you think you might have and take the worst that it can be and work to eliminate the hazards.”

Adams called for the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office to respond. Two deputies did. In their report, they wrote that they observed a “glowing object” and a cooler that was wrapped with black duct tape. Ice was forming on the duct tape. Thinking a possible meth relationship, the deputies followed their training and called for the department’s narcotics unit to respond.

In retrospect, perhaps it seems like a lot for a funny little mosquito trap that was suppose to be clearly labeled with Escambia County stickers.

“The equipment and cooler have Escambia County labels for easy identification,” said Sonya Daniel, Escambia County’s public information officer.

It was at about this period in our story where the picture you see on this page was taken. Understand what you see in the photo is not what you could have seen with your naked eye on Dawson Road with a good flashlight. The flash on our camera can light up and entire football field; so the camera was able to provide a view that could not be seen in person. There are no Escambia County labels visible in the photo.

About 15 minutes after we took the photo and left the scene, the narcotics officer did arrive on the scene. They are trained to approach a possible meth lab, which can explode at any moment. Their report indicates that they did find the Escambia County Mosquito Control stickers on the mosquito trap. Problem solved.

Why then did we report about the mystery object for hours before posting that it was a mosquito trap? Simple. That was the latest information available. Before the spokespersons in the Sheriff’s Office can release a report, it must first be filed by an officer and approved by a supervisor. That sometimes takes hours, as it did Tuesday.

There were, by the way, a surprising number of people working to find answers for us on Tuesday. But answers take time.

If were a printed weekly paper, none of this story would have been the talk of the county. It would have been, if reported at all, a small paragraph on page 12 or something. But in the world of 24/7 news as it happens on, it sometimes takes time for a story to unfold. It’s that drama that makes what we do so appealing to tens of thousands of people everyday.

It may or not catch mosquitoes in February, but the little light sure did catch our attention.

Click here for our original Tuesday story.

Blog: Stolen Church VBS Signs

June 30, 2009

This little light o’ mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

It was a childish act Friday night as someone stole signs around Molino that advertised Vacation Bible School at Highland Baptist Church.(Read more here.)

Stealing is always wrong; we are all taught that when we are what — about three? Perhaps it was someone with something against the church, someone taking part in a prank or someone with serious spiritual issues. Maybe “the devil made them do it” would be their excuse.

But sometimes things backfire and good prevails. The church had set an aggressive goal of 200 in VBS, about the equivalent of their sanctuary full. One of the ways they decided to advertise their VBS was with the signs around the community in an effort to reach every child possible. VBS is, according to the Southern Baptist Convention, the single largest evangelist effort of the Baptist church each year. The same holds true for other denominations and other churches.

The signs would have reached a few. But the missing signs served to reach thousands.

We at will always promote what Bible-believing churches in our area are doing. Because of the sheer number of Vacation Bible Schools in North Escambia, we could not give display advertising to each one on our front page. A few weeks ago, there were about 25 VBS listings on our events page.

But when we heard about the signs being stolen, we decided to make sure there was no victory for evil there. We are providing the church with thousands of display ads on our front page this week at no charge. And, since it was a newsworthy event, we ran a story on our front page as well. Rather than a few people noticing signs on the highway, tens of thousands would have seen the ads and the story Sunday and Monday.

When Marty and Linda at WXBM radio read the article, they took to the airwaves talking about the incident. We understand that they are regular readers. (Appreciate that guys!) Tens of thousands more people learned about VBS at Highland.

It became the story of ten little signs reaching tens of thousands. Sort of makes you think about a little boy’s two fish and five loaves of bread feeding 5,000 men, plus women and children, in the Gospel of John. In that Biblical event, there was even baskets of leftover food.

In our little sign story, we even have leftovers.  The signs were reprinted Monday thanks to an individual in the community and Performance Graphics of Robertsdale, Ala.

But the children are more important than our little story of the stolen signs. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14.

Monday night, the first night of VBS at Highland, they surpassed their goal of 200 in VBS, with 225 signed up to hear the Gospel.

Incidentally, the theme for this year’s Southern Baptist Convention, which wrapped up last week, was “LoveLoud:  Actions Speak Louder than Words”, based upon Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your fine works and give glory to your Father who is in the heaven.”

The childish act of stealing the signs served a purpose — for good. Romans 8:28,  “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel? NO! I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Blog: A ‘Perfect’ 5, An Open Letter To Molino Park’s FCAT Best

May 29, 2009

It seems that a 5 is not always a 5.

Late last week, we ran a story entitled “Molino Park Student One Of Four In Escambia With Perfect FCAT Scores”. In that story we named Molino Park student Sarah Perritt as one of four students in all of Escambia County to score a “perfect 5″ on the reading and math third grade FCAT.

That story has created quite the uproar. Everyone in the Molino Park family is, as we are, very proud of Sarah. But it created a lot of confusion when letters went home to parents notifying them that their child too had score a 5 on both the reading and math FCAT.

That lead many a proud mom, dad and grandparents to contact us wondering why we did not name their child in the story.

The Escambia School District highlighted the fact that the four students had scored perfect on both the reading and math FCAT in a press release sent to the media. In most people’s minds, admittedly in our mind at first, that meant the students scored a 5 on both the reading and math FCATs. There is information available to us, to anyone, that will show you how many children scored a 5 on the reading and how many scored a 5 on the math. But nothing in the numbers made publicly available indicate how many of those scored the 5 on both. As it turns out, there are quite a few at Molino Park.

But a “perfect” score on the FCAT indicates that Sarah and the three other students in the county got each and every question correct in both subject areas. It is possible to miss some number of questions and not obtain a “perfect” score, but still receive a 5.

We would happily run the names of the students that scored a 5 at Molino Park and all the other schools that we cover, but schools are not allowed to release student FCAT scores.

We did want to clarify the story from last week and explain how the story came to be. We also want to offer our congratulations to the students that scored a 5 on the FCAT from any school, and offer our congratulations to each and every student that did their best on the FCAT, regardless of their score.

Blog: Century-CAN, Century Can Go Wireless

May 21, 2009

There’s been much written the past few days about plans submitted to the Century Town Council Monday night for a “Century Community Access Network”, a wireless broadband Internet service to be operated by the Town of Century if the plan is approved. The entire system, according to the consultant pitching the project, would be funded with federal dollars at no cost to Century.

Consultant Rodney Thomas of Resources Building Tomorrow, LLC. of Richmond, Virginia, told the council that residents would be able to obtain the broadband Internet service for $34 per month each, plus some setup fees. He told the council that the service could be used for Internet access, streaming video and even tele-medicine.

Thomas told the council that any cordless phone on the system would work anywhere in town. While his presentation did not, the proposal presented to the council says that Internet telephone service would be another $14 per month. Truthfully, a regular cordless phone would only work a short distance from its base, just as it does now. An IP based cordless phone, one that connects directly to the Internet, would have the around town capability. Such phones typically sell for $75-$100 and up.

There are math problems in the proposal.  For instance, financial numbers are based upon 1,721 households in Century. The Census Bureau says there are about 2,200 households in the entire 32535 Century zip code that, in reality, stretches halfway across the county to Highway 97. Estimates put the number of households at 650. If 25 percent of those households signed up for service, the city would receive about $1,600 in revenue with their $10 share of the total $34 fee. Fixed expenses in the proposal are $1,200 per month with a few options that might cause them to increase. In an ideal situation, 25 percent of households (about 163) using the service would net the town $400 per month. But we all know that in the business world, ideal situations rarely happen.

There  are a few other money making opportunities in the proposal for the town. A couple of bucks per household that signs up for VOIP telephone (a telephone service that works over the Internet) at $14 per month, and selling advertising on a community portal. A points there: A Magicjack IP phone service is $20 total (not per month) for VOIP. Other services are cheap or free.

And, by the way, with  163 households on the service, Thomas, the consultant, would pocket $326 per month, each and every month. Really not that much, compared to the bad-math proposal that would have him making $1,721 to $3,442 per month.

Another big problem with the proposal is that persons in Century that want broadband Internet service have four or more options for service now.

The speed of the Century-CAN service will reportedly be 768Kbps to 1Mbps for $34 per month.  In Century, AT&T offers 768Kbps Internet, their slowest option,  for $19.95 per month with or without phone service.  A 1.5 Mbps service, faster than that proposed by Century-CAN, is $32.95 per month with phone or $37.95 without a dialtone. Other packages are offered up to 6 Mbps. Bright House cable company also offers Internet service in Century at speeds up to 15 Mbps, but most of their packages are more expensive without cable TV service. There are other Internet options available to anyone in Century — satellite service from companies like Wildblue and cellular connections from companies like Alltel and AT&T.

Why would someone choose to pay $34 for a service that can be obtained from AT&T for $20 a month, even without having their phone service? The proposal mentions video streaming. Yep, at 768 Kbps you can stream a blurry Youtube video. But that speed won’t stream quality video from most popular television and movie sites without a degredation in quality. As for the tele-medicine in the proposal…well, can we have a volunteer? Do you want a doctor diagnosing your condition, or operating on you, over a connect speed that can’t stream a Netflix movie at full quality?

It’s not worth arguing quality of service, speed of service or method of delivery. Like there are Ford people and Chevy people, there are those that are in favor of getting their Internet service via Wi-fi, cellular, DSL or cable. There are points to be made for these and other delivery methods.

The bottom line of this proposal, which the council has not discussed or acted upon, should serve as a idea.

Wi-fi networks over an area like Century are not rocket science. There are many do-it-yourself web sites that would take a semi-techie person an hour or two to digest. Maybe Century should not look to build a network and sell service. Maybe Century needs to build the network and offer the service for FREE or very reduced cost.

Pensacola recently installed free wi-fi downtown along Palafox to help promote their Palafox market. Montgomery and many other cities offer free wi-fi in business districts. It draws people.

If there is grant money available to build this project, as the consultant said Monday night, let Century apply for the grant with its own grants writer. Once Century gets the grant, let Workforce EsaRosa or one of the many other such services, train people to run the system.  Other than climbing a water tower from time to time, it’s not that difficult with just a little training. (I know several Northview students out for the summer that could put this network together in just days.)

Then order your equipment.  It’s all available online and can be here in a week. The proposal presented to the council had lots of fancy technical words, but these are ordinary commercial grade pieces of equipment you would find in any professional office (except, perhaps, for the antennas themselves). Many manufacturing facilities, for instance, are running facility-wide wi-fi networks.

Throw in a few dollars for security; there seems to be no mention of security in the proposal presented to the council. We are sure it’s just an oversight, as no one wants the contents of their computer open for public viewing or destruction.

Order your main connection to the Internet. (Hint: It might be cheaper in Alabama; it is wireless and would jump the tracks just fine.)

Now offer free, or very reduced Internet to your citizens.  Offer free one-day passes to anyone passing through town.

Now our federal grant dollars are providing the opportunities to the people in Century without charging them $34 a month, and without pumping dollars out of state.

There’s great potential here. The idea of the Town of Century providing a wireless network is a good thing. But Century can do this for itself, pumping the dollars and benefits right back into the town.

We’ve been asked what’s reason for becoming involved in this is and where we would benefit. It just happens to be a subject interesting to us (computer geeks, you know). We are also in a unique situation with a tidbit of information not available to anyone else in this equation. We have a pretty good idea how many people in Century have what type (DSL, cable, dialup) Internet. Since is popular in Century, our server logs reflect the type usage in the town.

Being straightforward, we might perhaps benefit from the free Internet service because we might gain a few new readers. But in the overall scheme of our thousands of daily users, a few hundred more in Century or any other town would be of no real benefit to us. So there’s no personal interest here, no attempt at personal gain. We would rather see Century gain with the opportunities that the Internet for all can unlock.

Century can do a  Century-CAN network. Century can do it on its own, benefiting its citizens.

Blog: Century Broadband Plan, How Fast Is It?

May 20, 2009

Monday night, a Virginia consultant presented his plan to the Century Town Council for the Century Community Access Network — a community wireless broadband network.

A lengthy video presentation detailed the plan — install a wireless network with multiple antennas, place routers at $34 per month each into homes and build a community high speed internet network. And the total cost to Century? Nothing, according to Rodney Thomas, of the Richmond, Virginia, consulting firm Resources Building Tomorrow, LLC., with federal funds footing the $146,492 setup fee. The proposal actually would be better than free — the town would make $10 per subscriber per month, everything would be installed and maintained by couple of companies. Thomas sweetened the deal with information that Century would own the network in five years, and his company would event apply for more money to renovate the Carver Community Center to provide a physical location for the project.

Sure sounded like a sweet deal, and it created many questions — the most basic of which was “how fast will Internet connection speed be?”  From our Monday morning article (click here to read the whole story):

When asked by Publisher William Reynolds how fast the broadband service would be, Thomas replied that it would be “broadband speed”. When pressed for a further answer to define how fast “broadband speed” would be, Thomas said he did not know technical answers. Looking through some papers, he said that it would use “802.11n” routers, a not yet defined standard that provides speeds up to 108 Mbit per second. But Thomas did not provide an actual speed estimate for the internet connection.

Smoke and mirrors came to mind.

It’s the most basic question about any Internet service…how fast is it? “Broadband” was simply not an acceptable answer. It’s like buying a car; you don’t want to write a check for a car without knowing what kind of car it is and what features it has.

“Broadband” is general defined as any Internet connection faster than a 56K dialup modem. Let’s look at an example of downloading a 1.5 GB movie from Itunes. On a dialup connection, it would take you two days and 10 hours to download your movie. Ouch.

On the slowest DSL connection offered by AT&T in Century, 768K, it would take four hours and 43 minutes to download that movie. Better take a nap and wait to put the popcorn in the microwave. That DSL connection would cost you, by the way, just $20 per month. On the fastest DSL connection offered by AT&T in Century, 6 Mbps, that movie would download in 33 minutes, just enough time to call some friends to come over.  The monthly cost? $42.95 per month.

Incidentally, if the web server could connect to Itunes using just one Internet connection that serves the site,  it could grab that entire 1.5GB movie in one second. “Smokin” is the technical term, I believe.

The point? There’s a big difference in speeds that could be classified as “broadband”.

Thomas told us in the council meeting that his service uses 802.11n routers that can operate at up to  108Mbps. The Internet speed is only as fast as the connection provided to the router. Such a router could be hooked up to a dialup connection, but there would be no blazing speed. And, just for the record, while he told us the system would use “n” routers, the written proposal he provided the council details the usage of “g” routers which are slower. It’s not an important difference, simply because the total Internet connectivity of the system would likely not match the router speed.  Technical, I know.

His router answer was simply meaningless. We wanted to know, and pressed for the answer, how fast the possible internet connect would be. But there was no answer, just a comment about our questioning from Thomas’ friend and Century businessman Jack Moran. Again from our Monday article:

“I am put off by the hostility of the tone of some of the questions. I am not the computer geek that William is, but I know something about it.  This is an opportunity for Century to…bring itself into the 21st century.” — Jack Moran

Computer geek? Maybe not. But knowledgeable? Humbly, yes. Our question was very legitimate; if you are going to pay for a service, you want to know what you are going to get for your money.

The written proposal that Thomas presented to the council is not real specific about the upstream speed, the total speed of the internet connection that every user will share under the plan. It does reference charging the town  $900 per month for a “5.0 Megabit Ethernet Circuit”.  That 5 Mbps circuit would be slower than a single DSL connection available in Century, and it would be shared hundreds of times.

Thomas told us after the meeting that the 5 Mbps speed in the proposal was incorrect. There was no mention of the mistake in his presentation to the council.

When we spoke to Thomas Tuesday morning, he told us that we would be emailed more technical information about the proposal or that his technical people would post comments on our story. By late Tuesday night, we had nothing.

Thomas is a grant writer and consultant and, by his own admission, not a technical person. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on our technical question that seemed to create so many problems. Not everyone that drives car knows the horsepower of the engine under the hood. They just know it gets them there.

But in examining the proposal presented to the Century Town Council for the Century Community Access Network, we found other problems. We will address some of those in a post on Thursday morning.

Blog: Publisher’s Decision On Consolidation Committee Service

May 18, 2009

One of the 25 seats on the commission created by the Florida Legislature to study governmental consolidation was offered to the publisher of by Escambia Commissioner Kevin White.

But after much thought and consideration, I will decline to accept the position. The simple answer? Florida’s “Sunshine Law”.  The longer answer? For that, let’s take a look at some background.


Each Escambia County Commissioner is allowed one appointee to the study commission that was created by the Legislature to draft a proposal  that would combine the governments of Century, Pensacola and Escambia County into one, if approved by voters.  Once a consolidation plan is created by the study commission, it is to be submitted to the Escambia County Commission, the City of Pensacola and the Town of Century for action before submission to the Escambia County legislative delegation by January 15, 2010. Once approved by the legislature, the plan would be presented to Escambia County voters.

A person that serves on the committee is not necessarily for or against consolidation. The commission will not study if there should be consolidation. It will create a plan for consolidation that goes into effect if approved by the voters according to a bill already signed by the governor. A special interest group “All For One” lobbied the Florida Legislature to mandate the creation of the commission, and a bill sponsored by Rep. Greg Evers passed this past session to create the study committee.

The question of whether or not there should be a consolidated government will be answered by the voters in 2010.

The Need

The idea of serving on the consolidation committee seemed like a very good thing in the beginning. The committee will be made up of  25 members, very few of which will have connection whatsoever directly to North Escambia, District 5 or anything north of 9 Mile Road.

As publisher of, I have seen the interests and needs of North Escambia residents, and has worked to give our communities a real voice in this county. Serving on the committee would have been a great opportunity for your voices to be heard directly in the creation of the consolidation document.

The Sunshine Law

But another serious question became more important. After consulting with a couple of attorneys and the Florida Attorney General’s Office, there would very likely be a problem with serving on the consolidation committee and publishing

In a simple nutshell, Florida’s Open Government and Public Records laws, commonly called the “Sunshine Laws”, prohibit the member of a committee from speaking to any other committee member about items that will be voted on, or recommended by that committee. It turns out the whole “freedom of the press” thing can actually be constricted by the state’s open government laws.

If Mr. John Q. Public where chairman of the consolidation study commission, I could not call Mr. Public and ask him questions about the consolidation for a story on It was also the consensus of the attorneys that I spoke with, both of which are very versed in the Sunshine Laws, that I could not easily have an employee call Mr.  Public and ask those questions.

I could serve on the committee and report on what happens in any meeting. That would not be a problem. But presenting an issue to a committee member and questioning their motives following a meeting could not be done. A violation, by the way, is a criminal offense that can land you in jail.

I feel that I can best work to ensure that the commission does not forget North Escambia as a journalist, not as a committee member. It’s no secret — I don’t believe this 25 member committee will have the best interests of North Escambia in mind. I really doubt that many of them will even understand much about North Escambia beyond what they have seen at 65 mph along Highway 29.

As a journalist, I can present the issues and questions directly to each and every committee member and the public as often and as strongly as I wish.  As a committee member, my input would be limited to only meetings.

As a journalist, I can call committee members and ask how they plan to vote on a particular issue and print those answers, thereby possibly influencing the total vote of the commission. As a committee member, I could not.

If I were a committee member, the only consolidation commission reports you would read on would be from meetings themselves. Residents of North Escambia would have to rely on the Pensacola News Journal and Channel 3 to look out for our interests with the hard hitting, direct questions with North Escambia in mind. Yeah, right.

At this point, it is not a matter whether you are for or against consolidation. What matters at this point is the fact the legislature, because of Greg Evers’ bill, has mandated the creation of the consolidation commission and plan. We must as the communities of North Escambia fight to make sure we are not forgotten in the document headed to voters, just in case it should pass.

It’s much like hurricane season. You can very much not want a hurricane, but when the warnings are issued you better get prepared to defend your position.

As a journalist, I will continue to represent North Escambia stronger than would ever be possible as a consolidation committee member. Each of you have served to make a powerful voice. As a committee member, I would have been once voice in the process. As, we will be thousands and thousands of voices, and votes, looking out for our neighbors.

I invite your comments below.

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