High-speed Internet service may expand - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

High-speed Internet service may expand

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A proposed $60 million project could bring Broadband Service to 21 south Georgia Counties.

The project would be paid for with stimulus money, and the Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center believes there's strength in numbers.

That's why today they asked Dougherty County Commissioners to join the coalition. WALB news Ten's Jennifer Emert joins us live in the newsroom with the details.

Right now just 30% of Dougherty Countians have access to Broadband High Speed Internet Service, a necessity for many businesses.

The Southwest Georgia Regional Development Center made the pitch for the Regional Stimulus Broadband Wireless Project that would provide broadband service that's for nearly two dozen counties outlined in this map. What makes this project viable is having all of those counties working together.

If developed it could mean better educational opportunities for local schools, health care opportunities, access to information for law enforcement in their cruisers, but typically an area like southwest Georgia wouldn't get an opportunity like this. 

"Normally a business such as an AT&T or some other large corporation wouldn't do this kind of Broadband, wireless project in our area, the poverty rates are too high and the density rates are too low and there's just no way to make money so we have an opportunity," said Wes Smith, Albany Assistant City Manager.

"When the project is built out completely we will reach 95% to 97% of the 423,000 people in that 21 county region," said Dan Bollinger of the Regional Development Center. 

The specifics to apply for the project will be released in the next several week, and those involved expect there could be a 20% match for local governments. The good news is that match may have already been met.

That's because Water, Gas, and Light has been laying fiber lines in areas along with other utilities and that work over the last year could be counted toward that match so it may not cost local government anything.

The proposal will be presented to city commissioners later this month. But city leaders have already been involved behind the scenes.

They've had their lobbyist contact Congressman Sanford Bishop's office to push for the project in Washington.

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