Columbia County built it, and now the customers have started coming.
Pending approval from the board of education, the county’s schools soon will be wired into Columbia County’s new broadband utility, as will several other customers approved Tuesday.
Commissioners approved the end of a 10-year, $652,800 contract with the school system during the Management and Financial Services Committee meeting Tuesday. The school board could begin consideration of the contract as early as next week.
“This is really a partnership between us and the board of education that allows them to budget for the next 10 years and allows them to have the high-speed Internet access and the capacity they need for those schools,” said County Administrator Scott Johnson.
The 220-mile, $18 million network of fiber optic cables and wireless communication towers was funded largely through a $13.5 million federal “stimulus” grant.
“We did give them a break on the first three years,” Johnson said. “They’re going to have significant capital outlay, probably upwards of $200,000 of equipment they’ll need to put in place, but basically what that will do is provide all the schools in Columbia County with the fastest capability.”
The best part of the deal is that it will bring all schools up to the same level of access, said District 4 Commissioner Bill Morris, who was an assistant school superintendent before his retirement. Part of the justification for the federal grant was improved broadband access to rural areas of the county.
“Back when I was with the school system, a real issue was that the schools on the south side of I-20 were not on the same speed network as the rest of the schools,” Morris said. “It’s good to see everybody will have equal excess.”
In addition to the pending agreement with the school system, the committee also approved the county’s first connection to an Internet service re-seller.
Georgia Business Net will pay a $7,500 setup fee and $400 a month for access to the county’s fiber optic network, and in turn will provide Internet access to customers in the Grovetown area.