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Construction Begins on $40M Broadband Project in Georgia

The construction phase of a multiyear project to provide high-speed fiber-optic Internet to more than 16,000 rural residents in Lowndes County has begun. The project will connect around 96 percent of the unserved county census blocks.

(TNS) — Lowndes County has entered the construction stage of a $40 million multi-year project to provide high-speed fiber optic Internet to more than 16,000 rural residents.

The board of commissioners entered an agreement with Windstream Georgia Communications, LLC and Kinetic Fiber, LLC at its latest meeting.

This project will provide symmetrical gigabit-speed broadband access to 16,193 residential locations and 1,434 business locations in Lowndes County and will cover approximately 96 percent of the unserved census blocks in Lowndes County.

Back in March 2021, the American Rescue Plan Act was enacted and included funding for the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund.

Lowndes County partnered with Windstream Georgia Communications, LLC to prepare an application for the funding, which resulted in Lowndes County receiving a grant award of $21,783,961. The total project cost of $39,420,865 will comprise the grant award from the State as well as $17,636,904 in matching funds provided by Windstream.

During the initial announcement in November 2022, Michael Force, who oversees Windstream operations in Georgia, said that unlike some high-speed providers, Windstream will not offer an "in-house" cable television package to subscribers, but has a working partnership with third-party vendors such as DirecTV and YouTube TV.

The deal with Windstream is not exclusive, meaning other service providers are free to operate in the same coverage areas. In decades past, the county commission had offered exclusive franchises to cable TV systems which locked out competitors.

According to Force, pricing will be "consistent with market pricing" and installation will involve both above-ground and below-ground work.

Stephanie Black, county finance director, noted in her report that unserved or underserved communities will receive reliable Internet access that delivers minimum speeds of 100 Mbps download and 100 Mbps upload.

"This project will foster a better quality of life for many of our citizens with improved opportunities for remote learning, work from home options, economic expansion, and enhanced telemedicine," she said.

According to the agreement, all parties are aiming to complete the project by Dec. 24, 2024.

©2023 The Valdosta Daily Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.