WAVERLY HALL, Ga. (WTVM) - According to Senator Raphael Warnock, 10-percent of Georgians don’t have any real connection to broadband and about 38-percent of residents in the state depend on one company for broadband connection. Sen. Warnock visited Waverly Hall Telephone Company, WavCom, in Waverly Hall Mon. afternoon to discuss rural broadband issues during one of his several stops throughout the state this week.
He says the Waverly Hall community is an example of how more work needs to to done to build out rural broadband. Sen. Warnock says rural broadband is something they somewhat addressed in the American Rescue Plan with $7.1 billion, but says it is something that definitely needs to be emphasized as they work on an infrastructure program for the American Jobs Plan.
During his visit Mon., Sen. Warnock says we need to start thinking of broadband as a utility.
“Farmers will tell you that you can’t even farm effeciently without broadband connection so I think the same we thought about this a century ago or so, telephones, electricity, in the 21st century that’s broadband,” the U.S. Sen. said.
Broadband in rural areas is something the pandemic has brought into sharp focus with the need for kids to be able to connect to the internet.
“For my personal experience, during the time the office was closed I have a middle schooler and a college student at home. All three of us trying to utliIize our internet was difficult. They actually asked me when I was going back to work because I was hogging the internet,” said Kimberly Tharp, Harris County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO.
WavCom’s operations supervisor says they have about 2,000 customers with access lines for internet with an average dial tone. He says they picked up more than 120 subcribers last year, which is a lot for a company their size.
“Right now on a project we’re building, we’re looking at 5 to $6,000 dollars per home that we pass and that is not going to get recouped in a year. That’s not going to get recouped in a year. That’s not going to get recouped in 10 years. So, our issue is trying to build the infrastructure while lowering the price and without support, we’re not able to do so. It’s just absolutely unfeasabile,” Dillon Watson with WavCom explained.
WavCom’s cost for an average family goes from just under $70 dollars a month to above $100 depending on the type of service.
Within the last few years, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill to include state funding for rural broadband issues. The governor signed off on $20 million for the fund this year, which rural communities will be able to receive as a grant.
As a way to help families during the pandemic, the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit launching May 12 will provide up to $50 a month per household for low income income residents.