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Monday, February 21, 2011 - 1:00am

Rural Georgia Still Lacking Enough Broadband Access

Faster-than-dial-up Internet access is available in virtually all of Georgia, according to a national map of broadband service.

But some rural parts of the state – especially north, central and southwest Georgia – still need more service, according to broadband access advocates.

“Much of rural Georgia south of Macon is underserved and unserved, and this is primarily where rural Georgia is located,” said Nancy Cobb, executive director of the OneGeorgia Authority. “Also, if you go above, say, Gainesville north, you will see a similar type of situation.”

Among its programs, OneGeorgia offers grants to expand broadband service in the state’s rural areas.

The problem in many of these areas is slower high-speed connections – like DSL – or lack of options for broadband service providers that mean schools and businesses in these underserved areas simply don’t have enough bandwidth to access most of the Internet’s resources.

“In some cases, they may have a DSL connection, but it’s shared across such large number of students or population within an organization that it’s not much better than a dial-up when you have so many people trying to access it at the same time,” Cobb said.

Cobb said spread-out population makes it difficult for broadband companies to see a quick return on their investment by bringing service to rural areas.

She said access should improve in the northern third of the state and in southwest Georgia once grants from OneGeorgia and the federal government finish building new infrastructure to expand bandwidth.

The national broadband map was created with data reported by broadband providers. That data indicates 4.4 percent of Georgians – about half a million residents – have no wired broadband provider at all. Wireless broadband covers virtually the entire state population.

A semi-annual report on high-speed access from the Georgia Technology Authority indicates even though most of the state has fast connections, about a quarter remains underserved with slower download and upload speeds and few options for broadband providers.

More resources:
National Broadband Map
OneGeorgia Authority
Georgia Broadband Semi-Annual Report

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