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Fiber optic initiative to get $2.5 million from Georgia
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Gov. Sonny Perdue will visit North Georgia College & State University this morning to present a $2.5 million grant from the OneGeorgia Authority to support the North Georgia Network fiber optic initiative aided by federal stimulus funds.

The presentation comes on the heels of Vice President Joe Biden’s Dec. 17 visit to the area in which he awarded a $33 million federal stimulus grant to the North Georgia Network.

Nancy Cobb, executive director of OneGeorgia Authority, said the agency’s contribution is part of the 20 percent local match needed to tap the federal stimulus funds for the $42 million project.

Perdue, who chairs the OneGeorgia Authority, will award the $2.5 million check to local governments in Lumpkin, Dawson, Union and White counties to facilitate a 260-mile regional high speed Internet network that winds through 12 rural North Georgia counties.

The initiative was born from the OneGeorgia Authority, multicounty and university partnership that aims to increase bandwidth to facilitate world wide communication for rural operations.

“Health care, education, small business, large business — the list just goes on and on,” Cobb said of network beneficiaries.

The four initiating counties, the university, Habersham EMC and Blue Ridge Mountain EMC also provided local funding for the economic development project.

Bryson Payne, chief information officer at North Georgia College & State University, said the school was one of the original partners in the network study and the grant awards have been two years in the making.

The expanded broadband Internet network will allow the university to significantly enhance its remote nursing program that has outlets at Lanier Technical College and Gainesville State College.

Payne said the university has been spending about $1,000 a month per connection at the two end sites to deliver the distance learning program in nursing. With increased Internet connection, the high-demand nursing courses can be administered for less money, which means lower costs for students.

Cobb said it is not certain when work on laying the fiber optic cables will begin, but the tenets of the federal stimulus grant require work to begin quickly to create jobs and promote economic growth.

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