The board of commissioners last week voted to table a proposal by Paladin Wireless, an internet company that wishes to bring their services into Dawson County.
Paladin owners proposed to place two antennas on top of the courthouse in order to broadcast wireless internet to between 400 and 600 homes in the downtown area. They eventually want to expand their services all over the county, a plan they presented at the board's last work session.
Chairman Billy Thurmond recommended on Feb. 16 that the board table the proposal so that Paladin could come up with a more comprehensive plan for how they will reach more citizens, as well as to address concerns the county's legal counsel has with their proposed lease agreement.
"I do believe that Paladin may be onto a potential solution," Thurmond said. "But what they've proposed so far will be able to reach about 400 residences. In the county we have about 9,200 rooftops...it is our responsibility, if we're going to enter into a private-public partnership, that whatever we enter into would grant something to the majority of our citizens."
Angela Sullivan, director of operations for Paladin, said that members of the company were surprised the board did not accept the proposal, but that they will continue to work on bringing their services to Dawson County with or without government assistance.
According to Sullivan, the company will try to address the issues that the board brought up, but is also looking for private landowners to lease property from to erect towers, and is looking into talks with Etowah Water and Sewer Authority about using its towers. Paladin has not spoken with the authority yet.
"It will take a lot longer to build towers from scratch than to use existing structures," Sullivan said. "[The courthouse] would be a quick and easy way to get internet to people who need it."
District 4 Commissioner Julie Hughes Nix said that she had spoken with someone in the industry who told her that AT&T and Sprint would, in the next three to four years, be bringing their internet services to Dawson County.
Gaines said that from what he's experienced, the internet issues in Dawson County are an immediate need.
"I think we're eventually going to get to the point where your large carriers will invest in here...but to me this is a solution that can bridge that, between now and four years from now," Gaines said. "Right now we have people that are struggling day in and day out to run a business out of their house."
Only one citizen addressed the board about Paladin's proposal and the need for internet in the county, but the board did receive numerous emails from citizens voicing their support, according to commissioners.
In the end, all four commissioners voted to table the proposal for an indefinite amount of time.
"To me it's the first step of many, and I don't think anybody is going to come up here and turn the lights on for everybody overnight and everyone have super-fast internet," Gaines said. "But I do want this board to be comfortable with anything we do."