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Federal grant would create regional wireless network
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An organization based in Athens would like to help residents in surrounding areas surf the Internet.

The Athens Economic Development Foundation has applied for a federal grant that would help build a six-county wireless network.

In addition to the Clarke County area, the proposed network would include portions of Jackson, Barrow, Madison, Oconee and Oglethorpe counties.

The goal of the project, which is currently known as the Northeast Georgia Net Project, is to “enhance small business development, education opportunities for low-income residents and tourism,” says project manager and foundation board member Stephanie Sharp.

According to Sharp, the project has been certified by a professional engineer.

“This service is not meant as a substitute for paid service. It is to serve as a supplemental service for business people that are away from their offices and need connectivity, for people who can’t afford their own connection and for tourists within the proposed coverage area to use the Internet with their laptops or mobile devices,” Sharp said. “This project will help the entire six county area be more competitive in terms of small-business development, workforce development and tourism. The six primarily rural counties each offered letters of support for this project.”

If approved, the grant could cover up to $3.2 million of the $4 million cost.

“We will cover up to 5 square miles in each county. If we receive the grant monies, each county will be asked to appoint a person to the broadband grant committee,” said Sharp. “This person will communicate with county officials and will help determine the exact preferred areas of coverage within the county. The network will be free and open to anyone within the geographic range of coverage.”

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