Carrollton, GA—A unanimous 6-0 vote, with one Commissioner absent, by the Board of Commissioners late Tuesday evening added Carroll County to the list of counties in western Georgia that are matching federal grant funds for the expansion of fiber-optic networks in unserved communities. In addition to the federal grant funds totaling almost $38 million from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) broadband program, a combined total of more than $4.1 million is being contributed by Carroll, Haralson, Heard, Paulding and Polk counties for the construction of the infrastructure utilized to deliver broadband services.
“I am very excited to be a part of five counties that get along together and have a common goal,” said Michelle Morgan, Chairman for Carroll County. “That’s very hard to find in this day and age – it is a service that will enhance our quality of life.”
All the Commissioners expressed excitement and optimism that the need for broadband services in rural Georgia are at an all-time high, as District 1 Commissioner Montrell McClendon stated in advance of his favorable vote, “I am happy steps are finally being taken to bring broadband to rural areas of our county. It is a step in the right direction and provides a better way of life for many of citizens.” The Board of Commissioners also agreed that COVID exposed the needs for senior citizens, students, and the regional workforce, including county employees, to be able to effectively work remotely from home.
“We’re in such a unique time where so many federal programs are funding broadband infrastructure,” said Tim Martin, CEO for Carroll Electric Membership Cooperative (EMC). “If we aren’t proactive now, we may not see opportunities like these again in our lifetimes. A comparable time in our history was during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which brought about the Rural Electrification Administration.”
The federal grant funds from NTIA will be used for Phase II of Carroll EMC’s and SyncGlobal Telecom’s fiber buildout plan across the co-op’s service territory. The grant area for Phase II is designed to serve nearly 15,000 people in the 5-county territory and builds the foundation (backbone) to serve another 30,000 in future phases. Phase II expands on the existing Phase I that was partially funded by a federal grant from Rural Utility Services, a division of United States Department of Agriculture, and covers a large portion of Heard, southern Carroll and eastern Haralson counties. Construction for Phase I has already begun.
District 5 Commissioner Ernie Reynolds, who was very supportive and receptive of the opportunity to provide broadband to his district said in a statement, “After contacting many constituent groups, pastors, school board and teachers, cattlemen, and poultry producers, etc., I found there was unwavering support throughout my district to fund this broadband expansion. I support my constituents’ positive feedback on this county investment.”
Carroll, Haralson, Heard and Polk counties intend to utilize their Development Authorities to file a single joint application with SyncGlobal Telecom designated as the broadband provider. That will allow the participating counties to collectively realize the efficiencies and economies of scale of designing, developing, and implementing a regional contiguous fiber optic network that will enable broadband service to be extended to the greatest number of unserved locations in the fastest and most cost-effective manner.
“I can’t think of any other opportunities where a county can invest $2 million and get $22 million in-return to develop permanent infrastructure that we won’t have to spend money to maintain,” continued Chairman Morgan. “I think we can all agree that broadband is the next public utility. It is becoming more a necessity every day.”