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Tennessee Residents Embrace New Broadband Investment

Using a public-private partnership, about 3,400 homes in rural Walker County, Tenn., will be equipped for high-speed Internet in the next two years, with the project costing nearly $11.3 million total.

(TNS) — Using a public-private partnership, about 3,400 homes in rural Walker County will be equipped for high-speed internet in the next two years.

Walker County elected leaders and officials with Kinetic by Windstream answered questions about the nearly $11.3 million project last week at the LaFayette-Walker County Public Library. Many of the approximately 50 residents present had slow internet and were hoping for a solution.

The project will reach 83% of the unserved or underserved residents of Walker County, said Shannon Whitfield, chairman of the Walker County Board of Commissioners, at the meeting.

"That's what our state is trying to solve with this partnership with companies like Windstream, is to solve that digital divide," Whitfield said at the meeting.

More education for school-aged children is being done on the internet, he said, making it an even more important resource for Walker County households.

Many Walker County residents are reliant on slower dial-up internet, which runs over a phone line, Whitfield said. The rollout will be gradual, with high-speed internet available as soon as fiber-optic cable is laid, he said.

Households and businesses can see if they're eligible for an internet upgrade by going to, visiting the Kinetic Connection Center retail store at 615 S. Thornton Ave. in Dalton or by calling the store at 706-279-7000.

To lay the 323 miles of underground fiber-optic cable, Walker County is using $6.3 million in state grant money from the American Rescue Plan, a pandemic relief measure passed last year by Democrats in Congress, while Kinetic invested $5 million. Michael Foor, president of state operations for Kinetic, said to the crowd that the company is working in 18 counties.

"The people in LaFayette, Kensington, Noble and Villanow and their environs will soon no longer be underserved and unserved," Foor said.

The base package will cost about $60 for 500 megabits per second, he said, and one gigabit per second packages will also be available. Right now, Kinetic's base package is up to 100 megabits per second, according to the company's website. Multiple gigabit packages will be available in the next year or so, Foor said.

Kinetic's site said 500 megabits per second is fast enough to connect multiple devices that can quickly use the internet, game online and stream high-definition video. Megabits refer to the rate of data transfer sent between computers.

Will Miller, a systems engineer who works from home, said at the meeting that his North Marble Top Road home near Chickamauga was two miles outside the broadband expansion range indicated on the map.

"Is there any hope?" he said to Foor.

He said he moved from Marietta to Walker County this summer and has been unable to get high-speed internet even though he works from home. Multiple mobile hotspots are what he uses now, he said.

Foor said there will be future funding opportunities to wire more houses outside the current plans next year.

"With this $11 million we'll be able to get out that far, and then we'll keep striving to continue that with new programs, Foor said.

Richard Westbrook, who lives on Taylor's Ridge, said he also has had problems getting internet to his remote home. He asked if new fiber will have to be laid if internet speed requirements keep increasing, and Foor said no.

"We're building a new infrastructure," Foor said. "I think this new infrastructure is what you're going to see for the next 50 to 70 years."

Windstream is rolling out a two-gig package in other states, and Foor said when that comes to Georgia, customers can be upgraded with a keystroke — the fiber isn't the limitation.

" Georgia is doing a tremendous job future-proofing with the investment at this point," Foor said. "We got so many builders putting fiber in the ground, and using fiber as the backbone."

© 2022 the Chattanooga Times/Free Press (Chattanooga, Tenn.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.