Partnering with AT&T, Hall County is applying for a $21.3 million grant to provide fiber optic broadband service to 13,000 more people in the county.
The proposal would include a $12.76 million contribution from AT&T if the county is successful in its application, and the county would match up to $6.62 million using SPLOST funds, a one-penny sales tax used for capital improvements. In total the project would cost about $40.69 million and take 14 months to complete after receiving funding, according to the grant application. It is expected to serve 11,312 single‐family homes, 1,132 multiple‐dwelling units and 802 businesses, the application states.
The application is for State Fiscal Recovery Funds, which includes a $4.9 billion funding pool, County Administrator Jock Connell said. The grant uses federal American Rescue Plan Act money distributed by the state for projects related to water, sewer and broadband infrastructure as well as addressing negative economic impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
AT&T would build a 10 gigabytes per second capable fiber network and include no cap on monthly data. Plans would start at $10 per month for qualifying low-income households, and monthly rates would escalate with higher network speeds.
“AT&T is helping bridge the digital divide through private investment to expand and upgrade networks, new product offerings, and support of policy solutions,” the application states. “These steps help customers gain access to greater educational, employment and healthcare opportunities.”
AT&T approached the county in August about the broadband project, said Zach Propes, interim financial services director.
“We listened to (AT&T’s) proposal and thought that it would be a worthy application for the county to potentially support,” Propes said.
Any local government, including cities, counties and other special jurisdictions, can apply for the grant, so the more of its own funding the county provides, the more competitive its application would be, Propes said.
The county is also applying for a $42.48 million grant for sewer improvements throughout the county through the same grant application process.
Sewer improvements would include previously planned projects such as sewer on Friendship Road and a Mulberry Creek back pumping station, Propes said. Funds would also go toward an expansion of the Spout Springs wastewater treatment facility and sewer along Athens Highway. The county would match $10.62 million using SPLOST and local American Rescue Plan funds, Propes said.
The sewer improvements are expected to service more than 40,000 residents, Propes said.
The county expects a decision from the state on the grant applications in early 2022, Propes said.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners is expected to approve the applications at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 28.