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Broadband survey looks to boost internet service in rural Northeast Georgia
Steve Gooch
State Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega

Broadband internet survey

Visit take a survey regarding the efficiency of broadband internet service in your area. The survey runs through the end of November.

A joint committee of state Senate and House leaders will host a community input meeting on the efficacy of broadband internet service in rural Georgia locales at the University of North Georgia campus in Dahlonega beginning at 9 a.m. Oct. 13.

The event will include a presentation from Windstream.

State lawmakers want to improve broadband internet service in rural parts of Georgia, including northeast cities like Dahlonega, and residents are being asked to take an online survey about the effectiveness of service in their area.

Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said a joint committee of lawmakers will use the survey results to make recommendations to the General Assembly next year, which could include proposals for creating tax incentives to spur new investments in broadband and scrapping some government regulations.

Poor internet service presents a barrier to economic development in rural parts of Northeast Georgia, according to Gooch.

Gooch said that 20 years ago businesses looking to open would inquire with local governments about sewer and water availability.

These days the No. 1 question is related to the reliable broadband service and capacity.

And it’s something that has caught the attention of the Jefferson City Council in Jackson County, for example, which launched a Broadband Advisory Committee earlier this year to address possible alternatives.

Gainesville, meanwhile, is looking to establish a free wireless broadband hotspot in the downtown square to improve e-commerce, recruit new businesses, provide educational opportunities in an outdoor setting and promote cultural events in the historic heart of the city.

The joint committee of lawmakers comes on the heels of reported problems with Windstream internet service in places like Dahlonega.

Residents have cited slow and unreliable speeds as problematic for their business and social lives.

Even U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, has grown frustrated with complaints about the service provider, sending off letters to the Little Rock, Ark.-based company demanding better solutions.

Windstream promised improvements earlier this year.

“It is my hope that this survey truly demonstrates what the broadband experience is like for users in Northeast Georgia. It is one thing to hear promises from the internet service providers, but the truth will lie in the responses of real consumers,” Collins said in a statement to The Times.

“I welcome the state to the fight for rural broadband and look forward to working with them as I continue the effort on behalf of my constituents to get the best service possible. Reliable broadband is critical to growing our economic footprint and the day-to-day functioning of our citizens.”

It’s also something Gooch has heard plenty about.

“One of the biggest problems I have gotten complaints about from my constituents is the internet,” he said.

Peak hour usage may explain some slowdowns, but like highways during rush hour, Gooch said alternatives are needed to relieve congestion, particularly as growth and demand call for improved internet service.

Gooch said the study committee has been traveling the state and will hold a community input forum on Oct. 13 at the University of North Georgia campus in Dahlonega.

Gooch said the committee would also explore the potential for other options, such as new wireless internet providers.

In Dahlonega, for example, residents have only Windstream to choose from.

The only thing preventing new providers from emerging in rural parts of the state is economics.

“I don’t believe a monopoly is the answer,” Gooch said.