Windstream announced last week that it plans to upgrade its broadband internet service in Northeast Georgia counties, including Dawson, Lumpkin, White, Habersham and Jackson.
The plans come after months of criticism lobbed at the Arkansas-based company regarding poor performance and download speeds.
Customer complaints about Windstream’s slow internet service in homes and businesses throughout Georgia’s 9th District, which encompasses all of Northeast Georgia, prompted a public rebuke from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville.
“We are listening closely to the communities we serve in North Georgia and making significant changes to give our customers the experience they deserve,” Jarrod Berkshire, president of operations for Windstream in Georgia, said in a statement. “We’re committed to expanding access to fast, reliable internet speeds throughout North Georgia, and will continue to make improvements that allow us to do so.”
An estimated 67,000 households will benefit from the upgrade plans, which will provide communities with internet speeds of up to 100 megabits-per-second.
Windstream is also expanding fiber-to-the-home in select areas.
“After years of calling for additional investment and accountability from Windstream in Northeast Georgia, I am glad to see them invest in their infrastructure to increase broadband speeds in the Ninth District, Collins said in a statement direct to The Times. “However, we have heard these promises before, and I remain skeptical of the outcome based on the past promises and performance of Windstream. While this may lead to better reliability and speeds, it is limited to Windstream’s existing cable footprint. I will continue to monitor the real time customer experience of Windstream users across the affected counties in my district, and hold Windstream accountable so that they are delivering the services they advertise and that their customers deserve.”
Improving broadband internet service and access across Georgia’s rural communities has been the focus of state lawmakers working on a joint committee this year.
Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, has said the committee will use the survey results to make recommendations to the General Assembly next year, which could include proposals for creating tax incentives to spur new investments in broadband and scrapping some government regulations.
The demand for better and more reliable internet service as a necessity for economic development spurred the Jefferson City Council in Jackson County to launch its own Broadband Advisory Committee earlier this year to address possible alternatives.
And Gainesville is now looking to establish a free wireless broadband hotspot in the downtown square to improve e-commerce, recruit new businesses, provide educational opportunities in an outdoor setting and promote cultural events in the historic heart of the city.