Last week, the Oconee County government announced plans to spend $4.5 million to bring broadband coverage to the entire county through contracting with Smart City Capital in a 20-year agreement.
(TNS) — Six years ago, about 70 people gathered for a meeting in Watkinsville to air complaints about insufficient internet connections. They laid out their concerns to representatives of two local internet providers, AT&T and Charter Communications.
Those affected also included residents who operated businesses from their homes.
Last week, the Oconee County government announced plans to spend $4.5 million to bring broadband coverage to the entire county.
The county will contract with Smart City Capital in a 20-year agreement to "bring high-speed internet access through the county."
"We have needs across the entire county, so the goal is to ensure the entire county has access to high-speed internet," Oconee County Administrator Justin Kirouac said Monday.
The money comes from the 2021 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or SPLOST.
The need for better and faster internet service was identified in 2017 as one of the goals of the county's new strategic plan, so it's been several years in the process, Kirouac said about the Joint Comprehensive Plan Stakeholders Committee, which compiled future priorities for the county from transportation to recreation issues.
A timeline has not been established for implementing the broadband project, but once underway he estimated it would take about two years and six months to complete.
"We should have clarity on it in the next few months," Kirouac said about the timeline.
The project includes an 80-mile fiber optic ring that Kirouac described as the "middle mile backbone" that will branch out with 540 miles of fiber cable.
The contract, according to the county, includes tower locations to broadcast wireless internet. The system will result in speeds of up to 10 gbps for residential and business services.
Smart City Capital is based in the Miami area while the network builder, Progressive Communications, is based in Georgia, as is service provider Nokia and Infinity Technology Solutions.
The agreement runs for 20 years, and at the end of this period, the county can continue the agreement or form its own utility, according to Kirouac.
"We are blessed to be able to provide an answer for one of the biggest problems in Oconee County," Commission Chairman John Daniell said in a statement. "Working with the private sector, this solution will enhance the quality of life for our citizens."
©2020 the Athens Banner-Herald (Athens, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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