Columbia County officials say a $3.7 million deal sealed last week with a network communications company will connect its broadband network to all major U.S. networks.
Tower Cloud Inc., a leading provider of wholesale telecommunications services, has agreed to lease 100 miles of Columbia County’s unused broadband capacity, or “dark fiber,” for up to 20 years.
George Townsend, Tower Cloud’s senior vice president of business development, said leasing Columbia County’s fiber network will provide extra capacity for its clients, which include Verizon. It will also help close the company’s local fiber optic network ring, which includes Augusta, North Augusta and Aiken. The St. Petersburg, Fla.-based company has fiber optic networks across Georgia, Alabama and Florida.
Though Columbia County had already approved the contract, Tower Cloud made it official Wednesday, Townsend said.
Lewis Foster, the county’s Broadband Utility manager, said the deal allows the county to make revenue from its unused capacity and links the network directly with the outside world.
As part of the deal, Tower Cloud will provide 1GB Ethernet connectivity from Augusta to the telecommunications hub in Atlanta, known as 56 Marietta, at no cost. 56 Marietta is a “carrier hotel” where all major telecommunications carriers link to each other’s networks, Foster said.
That alone should attract new business to Columbia County, which desire that type of connectivity.
“It is a real asset for the county for economic development,” Foster said.
Discussing the deal at a recent Management and Financial Service committee meeting, Deputy County Administrator Glenn Kennedy said the agreement puts the county ahead of its timeline.
“The potential that this creates for the county is just enormous,” he said. “In our strategic plan, we had envisioned having a presence at (56 Marietta) and downtown Augusta within three to five years. This is well ahead of that. The potential for future business is pretty significant.”
Tower Cloud has agreed to a five-year lease, with three additional five-year options. Officials said the cash value of the contract is about $1.2 million, with the remainder provided in in-kind services.
Tower Cloud has also agreed to construct about 5,900 feet of conduit for future fiber installations along Mistletoe Road. The county will provide materials for construction.
“What we are trying to do is to lay down the infrastructure for other future businesses,” Foster said.
Staff writer Valerie Rowell contributed to this article.