49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA)
FIBER FUNDING AWARDED TO CHATTOOGA COUNTY
At a news conference today in Atlanta, Governor Brian P. Kemp, joined by members of the Broadband Infrastructure Committee and state leaders, announced almost $408 million in preliminary awards which will provide communities, households, and businesses in 70 Georgia counties access to faster and more reliable broadband. These 49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant projects represent an investment of more than $738 million in Georgia when matching funds are contributed.
“I am very proud that Georgia is once again leading the nation in developing collaborative, innovative, and fiscally conservative ways to leverage government funding to positively impact and serve as many Georgians as possible,” said Governor Brian P. Kemp. “I want to thank all of the members on the Broadband Infrastructure Committee as well as the grants team at the Office of Planning and Budget, and the broadband and special projects team at the Georgia Technology Authority for working together to score applications and recommend projects that reflect the greatest needs and interests of hardworking Georgians. We look forward to the positive impact these projects will have once completed. I ran on a promise to bring opportunity to rural Georgians. If you look at the map of Georgians who will now have access to rural broadband, you will see a promise kept.”
Of the $408 million, Chattooga County will receive $3,040,732.00.
“This is very exciting for Chattooga County,” Sole Commissioner Blake Elsberry said. “This funding is part of a $10 million dollar project that was made possible through a partnership with Chattooga County and Windstream to address some of the unserved areas of our county. This is a great first step towards working on having reliable internet throughout the county.”
Elsberry added, “I want to thank Governor Brian Kemp for making this funding possible for the citizens of Chattooga County. I would also like to thank our local legislators Senator Jeff Mullis and Representative Eddie Lumsden for their support for the steps we are taking to increase Chattooga County’s access to broadband.”
On June 29, 2021, Governor Kemp announced members of the Georgia Jobs and Infrastructure Committees. The bipartisan committees were responsible for receiving applications and making recommendations to the Governor regarding federal coronavirus relief funds allocated to Georgia through the American Rescue Plan. State government entities, units of local government, industries, and nonprofits were eligible to apply. Specifically, the Broadband Infrastructure Committee was responsible for making necessary investment recommendations to provide unserved or underserved locations with faster, more reliable broadband access.
Today’s announcement represents the initial phase of the rollout. The state is now in a due diligence posture, collecting tangible information and working with grantees to maximize our ability to serve the most Georgians in the highest-need areas. As the due diligence phase wraps up based on final ARPA guidance from the United States Treasury and project awards are finalized, there is a potential opportunity to repurpose or leverage other federal funds to address areas that may not have been addressed with these awards.
“The volume of applications from all corners of the state proved what we thought we know: citizens need better broadband options for work, school, and play,” said Senator Blake Tillery. “The communities and providers who did the detailed work of separating out RDOF areas, avoiding overbuild in already served communities, and calculating local and applicant matches to stretch state dollars to more citizens earned these grants. These awards are a giant step toward resolving the technological divide between our urban and rural communities.”
Due to the hard work and forward thinking of the legislature, the Department of Community Affairs, and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Georgia Broadband Availability Map is a wonderful resource that helped the state identify the necessity of these projects. Leveraging this map, the focus was placed on selecting projects that will help maintain a level playing field for private sector competition, also taking into respect parallel funding streams available for broadband access or expansion – like the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Geography was also considered in order to disperse funds in an equitable manner.
“I am excited to see the impact these grants will have in connecting more Georgians to high-speed broadband and to watch the improvement in educational and business access they will create,” said Representative Terry England.
Based on data from the Georgia Broadband Availability Map, 482,374 locations in Georgia are currently unserved as of July 2021. The projects targeted with these awards could serve 183,615 locations – representing both homes and businesses – with faster and more reliable broadband. 132,050 of these locations are currently unserved based on state data.
In addition to this historic investment in broadband expansion in Georgia, the FCC’s RDOF program has awarded $326 million in funding that will also bring service to almost 180,000 unserved locations over the next several years. Due to the proximity and connection to the Broadband Infrastructure Committee awards, many of those project timelines are expected to accelerate.
The Office of the Governor would like to thank all the committee members who played an impactful role in evaluating the applications:
• Russell McMurry – Commissioner, Georgia Department of Transportation
• Jannine Miller – Planning Director, Georgia Department of Transportation
• Christopher Nunn – Commissioner, Georgia Department of Community Affairs
• Teresa MacCartney – Acting Chancellor, University System of Georgia
• Greg Dozier – Commissioner, Technical College System of Georgia
• Shawnzia Thomas – Executive Director, Georgia Technology Authority
• Richard Woods – State School Superintendent, Georgia Department of Education
• Eric Toler – Executive Director, Georgia Cyber Center
• Michael Nix – Executive Director, Georgia Emergency Communications Authority
• Frank Smith – Deputy Executive Director, State Properties Commission
• Sen. Blake Tillery – Chairman, Senate Appropriations Committee
• Rep. Terry England – Chairman, House Appropriations Committee
• Rep. Clay Pirkle – Secretary, House State Properties Committee
• Rep. Patty Bentley – Secretary, House Higher Education Committee
• Rep. Jodi Lott – Governor’s Floor Leader
• Sen. Bo Hatchett – Governor’s Floor Leader
• Sen. Harold Jones – Secretary, Senate Ethics Committee
• Sen. Steve Gooch – State Senate Majority Whip