ATLANTA – Two broadband projects in Georgia are receiving $14.9 million in federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The first project includes a 220-mile fiber network for high-speed Internet access in Columbia County. The second project will enable Level 3 EON to provide additional access points to its Internet backbone for last-mile service providers in underserved areas. Governor Perdue recommended both projects to officials with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.
"Georgia has long recognized that broadband is the dial tone of the 21st century," said Governor Sonny Perdue. "These projects will help our state grow economically and compete on the global market."
The Columbia County Information Technology Department was awarded $13.5 million to build the Columbia County Community Broadband Network, which will:
- create 60 free Wi-Fi hotspots in public locations to expand broadband Internet access for the public,
- encourage economic development, job creation and education by enhancing broadband capabilities for critical community facilities in underserved areas of the county,
- support a county-wide traffic and water control system,
- enable the use of electronic health records for patients at the Medical College of Georgia, and
- facilitate more affordable and accessible broadband service for an estimated 33,000 households and 2,400 businesses by allowing local Internet service providers to connect to the county's open network.
The project also involves the construction of five wireless towers to enhance public safety communications. It is supported by more than 20 county, municipal and other organizations.
The Columbia County IT Department currently operates a network of nine sites linked to a newly completed data center.
In addition, Level 3 EON was awarded $1.4 million to build four new access points on its existing broadband network, including three between Atlanta and Savannah and one between Atlanta and the Georgia-South Carolina border. Similar to on-ramps to the interstate highway system, these access points will enable last-mile service providers to offer affordable Internet access. The project could enhance broadband capabilities for as many as 198,000 households, 13,000 businesses and 190 anchor institutions, including schools, government agencies and health care providers.
With these awards, Georgia is receiving almost $48 million in federal support to expand broadband Internet access throughout the state. Governor Perdue announced a $33 million award in December 2009 for a 260-mile fiber optic network serving eight North Georgia counties.
With the federal award Georgia continues its efforts to expand broadband access that it started with the Wireless Communities Georgia program. Georgia's strategic approach to the issue of broadband access has made the state very competitive in the federal grant process.
Governor Perdue began working on bringing broadband to rural areas of the state in 2006 when the General Assembly, at the Governor's request, appropriated funds to expand wireless broadband access. The OneGeorgia Authority, chaired by Governor Perdue, established a separate program to assist rural communities seeking to establish broadband networks of any kind.