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The latest on Hall County’s plans for more high-speed internet access
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A plan to bring high-speed internet access to 13,000 new customers in Hall County is now up in the air after the county and AT&T lost out on federal funding for the project. - photo by Associated Press

A plan to bring high-speed internet access to 13,000 new customers in Hall County is now up in the air after the county and AT&T lost out on federal funding for the project. 

About 3,605 customers are unserved in Hall County, including in parts of East Hall, northeast Hall between Lula and Clermont and parts of North Hall, according to Georgia’s 2021 broadband availability map

The county’s grant application states it would have planned to bring speeds up to 10 gigabits per second to unserved and underserved areas throughout the county. The project would have included reduced rates for low-income households with plans starting at $10 per month. 

The application was for $21.3 million in State Fiscal Recovery funds as part of a $40.7 million project in partnership with AT&T. AT&T approached the county about the project last summer, and would have contributed $12.76 million, with the county providing $6.6 million. 

Gov. Brian Kemp announced the winners of the grant money, which comes from federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, earlier this week, dishing out nearly $408 million for broadband projects in 70 counties around the state. 

The amount of federal money available made this a unique opportunity to start a large project, and county officials said they will have to re-evaluate their plan. 

“Now that the application has been denied, we’re just on hold with that whole concept at this particular point,” said Zach Propes, interim financial services director for the county. 

The grant funding pool was highly competitive with 190 applicants applying for $3.2 billion, about eight times more money than the available funds. 

Though Hall County government wasn’t awarded funds, parts of Hall County will get new service through Spectrum Southeast LLC, a Charter Communications brand, which received $689,201 that will provide broadband for 831 unserved locations in the county, according to estimates from the state. 

New service areas include locations in northeast Hall near White County and northwest Hall near Dawson County, according to the state’s project map, though Spectrum must conduct its own assessments before deciding on specific project areas. 

Overall, Charter received $12.2 million for projects in Chattahoochee, Clarke, Green, Hall, Newton and Polk counties, and plans to serve 7,435 new locations.

The company’s grant application states, it would bring speeds as fast as 10 gigabits per second for commercial areas, schools and hospitals and 1 gigabit per second for residential customers. It also notes Spectrum’s plan included “significant private capital investment.”

Grant awards and project proposals will still go through a due diligence process with the state, and expanding broadband can take years. Construction involves working with local governments, getting permits, working with neighbors and acquiring necessary materials. 

Patti Michel, senior director of regional communications for Charter, said the company does not yet have a timeline for the project. 

U.S. Department of Treasury states these funds must be used by the end of 2026. 

“We’re really looking forward to delivering service to customers,” Michel said. “We’re really committed to rural broadband and service to these communities.”