Several Columbia County officials braved the frigid temperatures this afternoon to attend a ground-breaking ceremony near the Evans library for construction of a countywide broadband network.
The ceremony marked the start of the first installation phase for a 220-mile long network of fiber optic lines circling the county. At the time of the 2 p.m. groundbreaking, crews already were laying down the fiber lines on Evans Town Center Boulevard, Lewiston Road and William Few Parkway.
About 25 miles of the fiber optic lines will be installed by May 2011 for the first phase. Four subsequent phases will complete the installation by January 2012, according to county documents.
The site for the ceremony one day will contain a new building that will double as a maintenance office and contain the necessary computer equipment to operate the broadband network. Work on that building should start on Jan. 1, said county Construction and Maintenance Services Director Matt Schlachter.
Construction of seven wireless communication towers also are planned throughout the county as of part the broadband project.
Made possible by a $13.5 million federal stimulus grant, with local taxpayers contributing about $4.5 million in 1-percent sales tax dollars, the broadband network puts Internet access within reach of all Columbia County residents. Though the Web is easily accessed by many living in the Evans, Martinez and Grovetown areas of the county, rural residents in Harlem and Appling must typically find alternate means for Internet services than using cable lines.
Once finished, county officials will lease use of the fiber optic lines to Internet service providers. Also, the county intends to provide fiber access to all public schools, county-run facilities, law enforcement and emergency services buildings.