The Development Authority of Dawson County is partnering with Ellijay Telephone Company to use a portion of the Broadband Grant money recently awarded by Governor Kemp to expand broadband in the county, according to a joint press release by the two agencies.
On Feb. 1, Governor Kemp announced almost $408 million in preliminary Broadband Infrastructure awards aimed at providing communities, households and businesses in 70 Georgia counties with access to faster and more reliable broadband. 49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant projects were awarded, and the Development Authority of Dawson County was one of the recipients announced to receive over $1.3 million in funding.
According to a joint press release by the Development Authority of Dawson County, the agency will partner with Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC) and leverage a portion of their existing fiber network and resources to build approximately 35 miles of high-speed fiber optics to serve 563 customers in 14 unserved census block groups.
“The partnership with ETC allows the Development Authority of Dawson County access to, and usage of, portions of the 250 miles of middle mile fiber that ETC is building in conjunction with their partnership with Amicalola EMC,” the release said.
The release said that ETC and Amicalola will bear the cost of the middle mile fiber, allowing the project to be more efficient because none of those costs will be included in the grant project funding request by the Development Authority of Dawson County.
“ETC is excited for this new opportunity to continue serving communities across North Georgia,” ETC COO Jason Smith said in the release. “We will be leveraging our recently announced partnership with Amicalola EMC, which is allowing us to construct mainline fiber optic infrastructure near many of these unserved census blocks. This new fiber, along with these state grants, now make these locations feasible. We also want to thank the Development Authority of Dawson County for allowing us to partner with them on their application and all those community members who wrote letters of support for this application.”
The project was awarded $1.332,621 in state ARPA grant funds, and ETC will provide matching funding of $675,600, bringing the total funding to just over $2 million.
“Broadband is a major part of infrastructure that is vitally important to businesses and our citizens,” Dawson County Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Mandy Power said in the release. “ETC has already been a great partner with Dawson County Development Authority, and I am so proud that the hard work we have put in will pay off for Dawson County for years to come.”
According to the release, the project proposal states that “Dawson County has 14 percent (Georgia Broadband Availability, 2021) of the population deemed to be unserved by the FCC’s minimum broadband definition of 25/3Mb. This lack of access to qualified broadband inhibits, and in some cases entirely prohibits, access to virtual classrooms for K-12 and higher education pursuits, ability to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, efficient business operations for processes being conducted over broadband connections and access to telemedicine.”
To resolve this problem, the broadband project is aimed at reducing the number of unserved broadband locations in the county, building fiber-optic broadband networks and sharing and promoting fiber broadband infrastructure benefits with visitors, prospective residents and industries.
“This grant is a giant step forward for our community,” Development Authority of Dawson County Chair Brian Trapnell said in the release. “We’re grateful for the partnership with the state, ETC and our community stakeholders. This project is two fold: it helps improve the lives of our residents as well as strengthens Dawson County’s reputation as a great place to do business.”
The project is expected to commence soon, and will be ongoing through at least 2026.