Counties in northeast Georgia are among the latest to examine their options to improve access to the Internet in local communities due to the massive failure of the private sector to adequately invest in essential infrastructure needed for economic development and maintaining a high quality of life.
Those involved may include Stephens County, Hart County, Franklin County, Rabun County, and Habersham County. However, Franklin County refused to contribute to a feasibility study, with some arguing that the "utility owners" should do it - though it is not clear which "utility owners" are referenced here. Others found this troubling:
“I think some of the other commissioners maybe feel like it’s more of a private matter, that some of the commercial businesses should be putting in infrastructure,” he said. “However, someone like Windstream, if they have a potential customer for a data center, they’re going to steer that customer to where they have infrastructure. They don’t care about Franklin County.”
It’s important to understand, he added, that high-quality jobs will not come to Franklin County if it is not up-to-date with its infrastructure.
This is exactly correct -- what does a private sector provider care about a single county in Georgia? They care about a fast return on their investment, not about a community's vitality.
In the meantime, Stephen's County has contributed $500 toward a match for the study.
Minutes from the Feb 28 meeting of Stephens County Development Authority [pdf] offer more details of the study:
OneGeorgia’s Nancy Cobb has approached the Joint Development Authority of Franklin, Hart & Stephens Counties and “offered” to fund 80% of a Broadband Connectivity Feasibility Study (expected to cost about $240,000) in northeast Georgia. Her offer is contingent upon us actually officially requesting it and matching it with 20%. We anticipate her next meeting to be sometime in May/June. The more we study this Broadband Connectivity issue, the more we realize that many parts of northeast Georgia are technologically underserved. This study would assess existing broadband resources and their ability to expand in the region and the feasibility of constructing, maintaining and operating a fiber optic backbone through six (Banks, Franklin, Habersham, Hart, Rabun, and Stephens) northeast Georgia counties. The study would take into account existing broadband resources including but not limited to ILECs, CLECs, cable companies, and utility companies as well as other significant NTIA and RUS federally funded projects. The awarding of this contract to qualified consultants is contingent upon receiving both the OneGeorgia 80% and the local 20% match. The consultant work will cost $5,000. Stephens County Development Authority's contribution will be up to $10,000 for the study. Motion was made and seconded to approve SCDA to spend up to $15,000 towards the JDA North Georgia Network feasibility study: Lee Hicks[Tim Ash], All in favor, none opposed.