On Feb. 1, Governor Brian Kemp announced almost $408 million in preliminary awards that will help to provide communities, households and businesses in 70 Georgia counties access to faster and more reliable broadband. Among the list of grant recipients is the Development Authority of Dawson County, which will receive $1,332,621 of the grant funding.
According to a release by the governor’s office, the 49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) projects that Kemp announced Tuesday represent an investment of over $738 million in Georgia once matching funds are contributed.
“I am very proud that Georgia is once again leading the nation in developing collaborative, innovative, and fiscally conservative ways to leverage government funding to positively impact and serve as many Georgians as possible,” Kemp said in the release. “I want to thank all of the members on the Broadband Infrastructure Committee as well as the grants team at the Office of Planning and Budget, and the broadband and special projects team at the Georgia Technology Authority for working together to score applications and recommend projects that reflect the greatest needs and interests of hardworking Georgians.”
In June of 2021, Kemp announced members of the Georgia Jobs and Infrastructure Committees, which were responsible for receiving and reviewing applications and making recommendations to Kemp regarding the federal coronavirus relief funds allocated to the state through the American Rescue Plan. Among these committees was the Broadband Infrastructure Committee, which was responsible for making recommendations to provide unserved or underserved locations with faster and more reliable broadband access.
State government entities, units of local government, industries and nonprofits were eligible to apply for the grant. Tuesday’s announcement represented the initial phase of the rollout as the state continues to collect information and work with grantees to serve the most Georgians in the highest-need areas.
As project awards are finalized, there is potential opportunity to repurpose or leverage other federal funding to address areas that may not have been addressed with this first phase of awards, the release said.
“The volume of applications from all corners of the state proved what we thought we know: citizens need better broadband options for work, school, and play,” Senator Blake Tillery said in the release. “These awards are a giant step toward resolving the technological divide between our urban and rural communities.”
To identify the need of the projects, the state used the Georgia Broadband Availability Map. Based on data from the map, 482,374 locations in Georgia are currently unserved as of July 2021. The projects targeted with the awards could serve 183,615 locations, both homes and businesses, with faster, more reliable broadband. According to state data, 132,050 of these locations are currently unserved.
“I am excited to see the impact these grants will have in connecting more Georgians to high-speed broadband and to watch the improvement in educational and business access they will create,” Representative Terry England said in the release.
In addition to the Broadband Infrastructure grant funding, the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) has awarded $326 million in funding that will bring service to almost 180,000 unserved locations over the next several years. With the addition of the Broadband Infrastructure funding, many of these project timelines are expected to accelerate, the release said.
In total, Kemp announced 49 projects which represent local governments, non-profit organizations and 14 service providers including large companies, EMCs and local Georgia-based telecommunications companies.
"We look forward to the positive impact these projects will have once completed,” Kemp said in the release. “I ran on a promise to bring opportunity to rural Georgians. If you look at the map of Georgians who will now have access to rural broadband, you will see a promise kept.”