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Columbia County starts digging on county broadband

worker with lines
Columbia County broke ground on new fiber optic lines, which will expand internet access to rural areas and speed up access for those who already have it. (December 13, 2010 / WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Monday December 13, 2010

EVANS, Ga.---They were the only county in the state awarded a fiber optic grant and Monday, Columbia County officially broke ground on the $18 million dollar project to get more wired.

They say it could make your wireless faster and cheaper.

Get ready to see much more construction in Columbia County. Over the next year, work crews will be laying more than 200 miles of fiber optic cable all over the county.

"It's just trying to give our citizens more opportunities, better opportunities, and trying to make things faster and better for Columbia County," says County Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson.

A $13.5 million dollar grant from the federal government will help get more of the county plugged in.

"It gives us the opportunity to connect all of our government buildings, to connect all of our schools. It gives us some opportunity to provide free Wi-Fi, like at our senior centers and our parks," adds Johnson.

The county will become a middle-man for offering services through private companies.

"We will put the fiber in the ground and then we'll work with the service providers to allow them to get on our fiber and provide service to other people in the county," explains Johnson.

Cable and internet providers will be able to lease the broadband and bring it ten times faster to you.

"Since we're already going to have the fiber in the ground, we will have an opportunity to work with those service providers to get service to people that really have never had it before and certainly at speeds that they've never seen before," says Johnson.

They say on top of being a new source of revenue, it will also be more attractive for businesses and should lower broadband bills.

"Anytime you have competition typically that drives the price down," he adds.

A win-win for everyone.

The project is mostly funded by the grant but about 25 percent will come from sales tax revenue. It's expected to be done in five phases over the next year.

The 911 center, Sheriff's Office, and fire departments will also be connected. Leaders say only improving their communications. Any money they make will go back into the broadband utility allowing it to pay for itself.