Gov. Sonny Perdue visited North Georgia College & State University on Tuesday to award a $2.5 million grant from the OneGeorgia Authority to pave the way for the area’s electronic super highway.
Perdue, who is chairman of the OneGeorgia Authority, presented the check to local governments in Lumpkin, Dawson, Union and White counties. The funds augment the $33 million in federal stimulus funds U.S. Vice President Joe Biden announced on Dec. 17 that will support a 260-mile broadband Internet network throughout 12 counties.
The state grant accompanies public and private contributions to complete the local 20 percent match required to tap the federal funds, said OneGeorgia Executive Director Nancy Cobb.
David Potter, North Georgia College & State University president, said the university’s partnership with local governments and private electrical membership corporations facilitated the $42 million project.
“This project holds the promise of transforming our region’s economic base and prospects for the future,” he said. “... This initiative, I think, represents the coming of age for North Georgia.”
Potter said the increased connectivity will allow the university to expand its online distance learning courses in nursing and foreign languages. The governor said the network will benefit health care and businesses as well as 82 public schools and six other colleges.
Perdue has promoted high-speed Internet access throughout the state since 2006, and he said the North Georgia Network initiative means jobs and infrastructure for a more prosperous rural North Georgia.
He said broadband Internet connectivity is to the 21st century what electricity was to the 20th century. He said the network lays the foundation for business leaders to see the mountainous areas of the state as viable locations from which to do business worldwide.
“This year we’ll see some impact from the jobs,” Perdue said. “That will be minor compared to the long-term jobs we’ll see.”
Greg Richardson, a managing partner of the Alpharetta broadband consulting firm Civitium, estimates the initiative will bring 800 fiber optic cable laying jobs to the area over the next two years.
Richardson said although it is unclear how long it will take stakeholders to process grant agreements with the federal government, work on laying the cable could begin by April.