Broadband Project Moving Forward

Progress continues on a broadband expansion project in Stephens County and northeast Georgia.

The project is building what eventually would be a 150-mile high-speed broadband fiber loop through Stephens, Franklin, Hart, Banks, Habersham, and Rabun counties.

The first leg of that project is slated to be between Toccoa and Hollywood, Georgia, in Habersham County.

The Joint Development Authority of Stephens, Franklin, and Hart counties has received a $1 million equity grant from OneGeorgia to go towards building the loop. About $800,000 of the money is a straight grant, while $150,000 comes in the form of a loan to the JDA and $50,000 of the money would be a local match.

According to Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin, paperwork to finalize the loan portion of that $1 million is in the process of being finalized.

Martin said as that is done, preparations are being made to quickly begin installation of the first leg of the project.

“Even though we were waiting on the paperwork, we did not wait on ordering the fiber,” said Martin. “That has been ordered for the 18 miles between Hollywood, in Habersham County, and Toccoa. That is to be delivered right after the first of the year.”

The first leg of fiber should take just a few weeks to install, according to Martin, who says work should start soon after the first of the New Year.

The North Georgia Network, which has an office in Clarkesville, was selected in July to build this broadband project. The NGN already operates a high-speed broadband loop through a number of north Georgia counties and the first leg will connect to the NGN’s existing loop at Hollywood.

According to Martin, the North Georgia Network will pay off the $150,000 loan. Meanwhile, the JDA will cover about $7,700 of the local match, leaving four counties to split the remaining part four ways, meaning each county would be responsible for about $10,600. Martin said in October that the Stephens County Development Authority would cover Stephens County’s portion.

Local officials said this is an important economic project for the region, noting that high-speed broadband connectivity is vital for potential industrial prospects.