Georgia’s Approach to Rural Broadband
Broadband has become essential to business, education, healthcare, agriculture, and overall quality of life. Unfortunately, Georgians in many rural communities do not have high-speed access to the internet.
An estimated 1.6 million Georgians lack broadband access, according to 2014 data from the Georgia Broadband Initiative.
Recognizing the importance of broadband availability to all Georgians, the General Assembly passed the Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act (SB 402) in 2018. The legislation calls for promoting and deploying broadband services to unserved areas throughout the state, with minimum speeds of 25 Mbps for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads.
Accurate mapping of broadband availability is critical to identifying unserved locations and developing the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative. The initiative will assist communities in applying for federal funding to support comprehensive planning for broadband deployment.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) is developing a grant model and GTA is supporting them in development of the statewide map of over 5 million residential and business locations to determine the unserved locations and designate served and unserved census blocks. DCA’s mapping is a joint collaboration between the University of Georgia and over 40 broadband provider companies. The initial statewide map will be completed by June of 2020.
DCA and GTA are leading the Georgia Broadband Initiative in collaboration with the Department of Economic Development, the State Properties Commission, and the Department of Transportation.
Considerable progress has been made since the ACE Act’s passage:
- Created a new Executive Director of Broadband position within DCA to oversee the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative and ACE implementation
- Established a framework and governance for ACE implementation
- Established an advisory committee comprised of broadband service providers and local government representatives; conducted the committee’s first meeting
- Established stakeholder working groups for model ordinances and mapping
- Kicked off the statewide mapping with over 40 broadband service providers
- Established Broadband Ready Designations for communities that prioritize broadband expansion and for sites with 1 Gbps service
- Developed and approved the state grant program rules
- Provided technical assistance to Georgia organizations applying to the USDA Reconnect broadband grant program
- Conducted briefings for the Georgia Municipal Association, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, broadband service providers, and Georgia’s electric membership corporations
- Completed a three-county pilot mapping project to verify data accuracy
- Awarded first Broadband Ready Community designations
- Expanded collaboration to include additional state agencies to leverage existing state-owned broadband assets, infrastructure, and resources
- General Assembly authorized telephone cooperatives, electric membership corporations, and their broadband affiliates to provide broadband service to their customers
The team continues to build a strong foundation to extend broadband services across the state, strengthen rural Georgia, and make Georgia the number-one state for small businesses.