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Georgia County Begins Work on $40M Rural Fiber Expansion

Work on the Lowndes County fiber-optic network will be done by ISP Windstream and is slated to start in 2023 – a 2026 completion deadline has been set by Gov. Brian Kemp. The project consists of some 900 miles of fiber-optic lines.

(TNS) — Lowndes County, Ga., announced the start Monday of a $40 million multi-year project to bring high-speed fiber optic Internet service to thousands of the county's rural residents.

Bill Slaughter, county commission chairman, made the announcement at the commission's meeting chambers in the county courthouse annex.

On hand were representatives of Windstream, a company that offers Internet service in rural locations in 18 states.

Of the $40 million price tag, Windstream is putting up $18 million while state grants will cover the remaining $22 million, said Michael Force, who oversees Windstream operations in Georgia.

Slaughter said the project aims to provide broadband Internet access to 18,000 homes in rural Lowndes County that are "unserved or underserved."

He said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the need for expanded broadband access.

"When they were teaching the kids at home by Internet, some kids with no access had to go to friends' houses" or otherwise find somewhere they could get on the Internet to get their schoolwork done, Slaughter said.

Work on the fiber optic system is slated to start in 2023 with a deadline set by Gov. Brian Kemp of 2026, Force said. The project involves 900 miles of fiber optic lines and no copper lines, which slow the Internet down considerably, he said.

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, Force said.

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

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

Terry Richards is the senior reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times.

©2022 The Valdosta Daily Times, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.