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Georgia officials taking steps expand broadband access

June 1, 2019

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia officials are creating a detailed map of every location in the state that lacks high-speed internet as they try to expand broadband access in rural areas, according to a recently released state report.

State officials are also establishing requirements for broadband grants and conducting an analysis of state property that could be used to expand broadband access, the report unveiled in May states.

“It is a large task,” Deana Perry, the state’s broadband director, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution . “There are a lot of unserved areas throughout the state that need to have connectivity to be economically competitive with other regions.”

An estimated 1.6 million people in the state lack access to high-speed internet service, cutting them off from educational, health care and business opportunities, state officials say. Broadband providers have little incentive to expand into sparsely populated communities where there aren’t enough customers to justify infrastructure costs.

And those costs are high. Connecting all unserved areas in Georgia would require more than $1 billion in capital expenses, according to the state report.

Attempts at the state Legislature to raise money for internet construction — including a 4 % tax on streaming video and digital downloads — have failed in recent years, the newspaper reported.

“The state’s broadband plan is going to make a big difference in helping to bridge the digital divide, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Bill Verner, a senior vice president for Georgia EMC, a trade association that serves the state’s 41 electric membership corporations.

Georgia lawmakers passed legislation this year that authorizes the corporations to provide broadband.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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