The Information Superhighway will reach further into rural Georgia thanks to federal funding for three broadband projects announced this week by Gov. Sonny Perdue. Among the communities that will see expanded broadband access are Norman Park, Berlin, Funston, Coolidge and Pavo.

Perdue announced Wednesday that three new Georgia broadband projects will receive almost $13 million in federal funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. All three projects are designed to bring high-speed Internet access to unserved homes and businesses in rural communities.

“Broadband access is vital in the 21st century,” Perdue said. “We firmly believe that with the right resources the communities that will benefit from this grant can compete with any other community in the world.”

Windstream Corporation received two of the three awards, which were announced as part of a second round of funding from the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

One award of $5.1 million will be matched with $1.7 million from Windstream to provide broadband services in Alapaha, Ashburn, Berlin, Canton, Coolidge, Dalton, Ellaville, Funston, Irwinville, Jasper, Lyerly, Manchester, McRae, Menlo, Milledgeville, Montezuma, Morven, Norman Park, Pavo, Toccoa, Trion, Unadilla and Woodland. The service expansion is expected to benefit 44,000 people, 2,000 businesses and 120 community institutions.

The other award totals $6.9 million and will be matched with an additional $2.3 million in outside capital. Windstream will extend its broadband network to 29,000 people, 750 businesses and 50 other community institutions in areas throughout North Georgia, including Baldwin, Blairsville, Clarkesville, Cleveland, Cornelia, Dahlonega, Dawsonville, Helen, Hiawassee, Ivylog, Juno, Macedonia, Mineral Bluff, Morganton, Notla Township, Suches, Tallulah Falls, Three Sisters Mountains, Tiger, Toccoa, Turnerville and Young Harris.

Meanwhile, Blue Ridge Telephone Company is receiving $853,768 to bring broadband to its service area around Blue Ridge, benefiting 1,000 people and 16 businesses.  The company is matching the award with $284,590.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, new jobs will be generated in the short term as both companies move forward with implementation, and the economic development promoted by high-speed Internet services could lead to longer term job creation as rural areas become more competitive in economic development projects.

With these latest awards, Georgia projects are receiving over $109 million to expand broadband services. Perdue previously announced awards totaling almost $96 million.

Wednesday’s announcement continues Georgia’s efforts to expand broadband access that started with the Wireless Communities Georgia Program. Perdue began working to bring broadband to rural areas of the state in 2006 when the General Assembly, at his request, appropriated funds to expand wireless broadband access. The OneGeorgia Authority, chaired by Perdue, established a program separate from Wireless Communities Georgia to assist rural communities in establishing broadband networks.

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