Building a multi-million dollar regional Internet network may be no easy task, but the North Georgia Network Cooperative is making progress.
During a visit to Dawsonville in December, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced the cooperative had been awarded a $33.5 million grant to build a 260-mile fiber optic ring to broaden the availability of high-speed Internet service in Northeast Georgia.
Since that time, cooperative officials say they have been making slow and steady progress toward completion.
"There are a lot of moving parts to this thing, but we've got a great team assembled," said Bruce Abraham, North Georgia Network board member. "Everything is done by committee, and we have around 15 people that meet regularly to accomplish the necessary tasks."
One of the first tasks was establishing a set of operating policies. Since the project is funded by federal dollars, the cooperative has to get federal approval for everything.
"We literally had to look at all of the federal regulations to establish things like our business structure and procurement procedures," Abraham said.
Once completed, the network is expected to reach communities in Dawson, Forsyth, Habersham, Lumpkin, Rabun, Towns, Union and White counties. The ultimate goal of the high-speed network is to help attract more high-tech industries to Northeast Georgia.
Currently, the committee is working to locate point of preference sites in each of the eight counties. POP sites are where the main electronics for the network are housed.
"We had to hire a company to survey the sites and do all of the historical research to make sure that there aren't any hazards," Abraham said. "We're moving methodically and we're right on target with everything. We should be ready to start the actual construction of the network by this fall."
Once the network is constructed, it will function like the electricity industry, Abraham said.
"Just like how the (power companies) buy electricity then distribute it off, we're in negotiations with service providers for access to the network," Abraham said. "So far, we've gotten a lot of interest from companies that want to be customers of, or have applications on, the network."
With a 30-month deadline, all of the work on the network must be completed by November 2012.