June 2020

A Note from Our Mayors

Author: John McCann, Lisa Sulka | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

A Note from John McCann
Telecommunications Played Vital Role During COVID-19

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, we all found ourselves in need of internet service, particularly those who didn’t have it: laptops, tablets or iPads, electronic conferencing services and any other tools that would connect us.

A new Pew Research Center survey conducted in early April found that roughly half of U.S. adults (53 percent) say the internet has been essential for them personally during the pandemic and another 34 percent describe it as “important, but not essential.” I don’t find these percentages alarming, but it does highlight the importance of broadband internet.

On Hilton Head Island, our ability to connect swiftly and adequately can be attributed to the expansive broadband infrastructure our local telecommunication providers have installed. This infrastructure is equally as important as quality water, sewer access, good roads, and a secure power grid.

I firmly believe that broadband connectivity is necessary to support technological needs for existing businesses and residents, sustain a robust hospitality industry, and grow real estate values. During this COVID-19 pandemic, both Hargray Communications and Spectrum stepped forward and offered connectivity services for those who didn’t have any.

I was especially impressed with the 60 days of free broadband internet they offered to families with the K-12 and college students and to professional educators who lacked such service. This was a tremendous help to students who needed internet service to access and complete their school lessons.

Both companies joined the Keep Americans Connected pledge, a campaign the Federal Communications Commission launched. With their pledge commitment, they agreed to not terminate service to any residential or small business customers because of their inability to pay their bills due to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and to waive any late fees that any residential or small business customers incurred because of their economic circumstances related to the coronavirus pandemic. What an awesome step to take to keep our community residents and businesses connected.

At town hall, we also had to think of ways to connect with our community. In the last month, our IT and communications team set up video conferencing for our Town Council meetings. With that technology, we have livestreamed videos of our meetings on Facebook and on our website.

Through our Open Town Hall portal, we have allowed the public to provide written comments on agenda items. Through electronic means, we have seen more public engagement than ever before. Staff has been working with other town committees to prepare members to conduct meetings electronically.

With the direction we are moving in, the demand for reliable internet service will be ever increasing—not just for town hall meetings, but for our entire community. The coronavirus crisis has made us realize how valuable broadband infrastructure is and what we need to adapt to have widespread connectivity for our work and personal lives.

A Note from Lisa Sulka
Welcome to the Lowcountry
What a fun issue this is! What would we say to visitors who are just visiting our area or to those who have been so enamored by our Southern hospitality that they are making a repeat trip this way? I can’t imagine anything better than showing off our faces of Lowcountry hospitality. These are the faces who are the most welcoming—the people who set the tone for our visitors’ experience in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

I usually spend my Thursdays in our historic district of Bluffton. This is the day we have our award-winning farmers market on Calhoun Street, and after walking through and visiting all of our farmers and vendors, it never fails that I run across a visitor to our town. I love the questions, and I love explaining the quirkiness and uniqueness of our town. Whether it is explaining where the river is, or the historical significance of our town, or even where to get the perfect cup of coffee—it is so exciting to share what makes Bluffton so special.

So, why should our visitors find comfort in spending the day in our town? Well, we are ranked no. 2 in the 2020 Safest Cities within South Carolina; we are the home to one of the last oyster shucking facilities on the East Coast; the history of our town will keep you here for weeks, enjoying all of the tours that the Heyward House has to offer; we have two churches on the National Historic Register. If that isn’t enough, you could eat somewhere different every day for over a month and not be able to pick your favorite among our top-rated restaurants. Our business culture is one that everyone wants to emulate; views of the May River at the end of Calhoun Street are spectacular; the shopping is unique and amazing; art galleries are on every corner; pathways allow you to bike for miles and miles; and finally the welcoming and loving spirit of our residents will make you feel right at home.

Can you feel my enthusiasm? I sure hope so, as this is a place that you will have to pull me from, dragging and screaming. This is home and a place I want my children to move back to and start their families. Take a minute and Google Bluffton S.C. videos and you will quickly see why I love to call this town my home. #loveblufftonsc #heartofthelowcountry. 

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