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Nonprofit offering to assess broadband
Program targets small businesses
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Forsyth County News

The Internet has become an integral part of daily life, but there still are many small businesses that haven’t latched onto the technology.

That’s where Connect North Georgia is stepping in. The economic development nonprofit organization is making broadband adoption assessments for local small businesses.

The goal is to help small businesses increase revenue, lower costs and gain exposure, said Bruce Abraham, Connect North Georgia president and chief executive officer.

“Most businesses are just scratching the surface of the potential broadband provides their business," Abraham said. “In our experience up here in north Georgia, as we’ve provided Internet connections to small businesses, we realize that they hadn’t had this capacity before and a lot of folks didn’t know what to do with it.”

Abraham said there are 17 basic applications the program is focusing on that can help improve business.

Much like a recent program providing high-speed broadband to the north Georgia region, Abraham said this program is also funded through a federal grant.

“The research has shown for every 10 percent increase in Internet usage by a small business, they’ll see about a 24 percent increase in revenue and a 7 percent decrease in costs,” Abraham said.

About 1,800 small businesses in the region were sent information regarding the free online assessment that looks at how they use the Internet.

Participating businesses will receive a Digital Economy Index Scorecard report suggesting solutions to grow their business.

Abraham said Connect North Georgia will respond by showing how they can maximize use of the Internet, as well as showing how peers in that particular industry are using it.

Connect North Georgia has joined with Strategic Networks Group, an international group of broadband economists, to provide these assessments.

"By taking the current state of broadband use and comparing it to like-sized companies in similar industries, we’re able to educate businesses on best practices for broadband utilization," said Michael Curri, president of Strategic Network Group.

The organization is working on a Web site where businesses can follow up with their assessment and look at the applications and get advice.

“We’re going to take this baseline in the region of where Internet usage is today and then we’re going to analyze these same companies a year from now to see just what kind of affect these applications have had,” Abraham said. "Small businesses are the heartbeat of north Georgia … we’re trying to make that heartbeat stronger and pump more prosperity into north Georgia."