Area Broadband Project Making Progress

Officials are moving forward now that crews have completed installation on part of a broadband expansion project in Stephens County and northeast Georgia.

Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin said that crews have finished building out the first couple of phases of a regional high-speed broadband loop.

“18 miles of fiber has already been built that connects Toccoa to Habersham County,” said Martin. “The 70 miles from Toccoa down through Stephens County, into Franklin County, over into Hart County has been built. The North Georgia Network is leasing that fiber from Hart EMC.”

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 North Georgia Network, which has an office in Clarkesville, was selected last July to build this broadband project. The NGN already operates a high-speed broadband loop through a number of north Georgia counties.

According to Martin, the first phases that have been completed are now in the process of becoming operational.

Martin said that the goal is now to consider further expanding the backbone while hooking people onto the fiber.

“Our North Georgia Network effort is also reaching out to a couple of other local providers to lease some fiber from them,” said Martin last week. “We have had some conversations with local industry trying to gauge their interest in signing on this backbone.”

According to Martin, those discussions include looking at ways to connect the network to the county’s industrial parks.

Martin said that a lot of work remains, but adds that officials are excited about the progress so far and are confident more progress can be made.

Money for the project so far has come from a $1 million equity grant the Joint Development Authority of Stephens, Franklin, and Hart counties received from OneGeorgia.

Out of that $1 million, $800,000 of the money is a straight grant, while $150,000 came in the form of a loan to the JDA and $50,000 of the money would be a local match. The North Georgia Network is paying off that $150,000 loan.

According to officials, work is taking place to seek additional state funds to help fund the project further.

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