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Columbia County receives broadband grant

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Internet access to all Columbia County residents soon will be possible thanks to a multimillion-dollar federal grant.

Officials announced Tuesday that the county won a grant of about $13.5 million from the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program to increase broadband and wireless access, particularly in poorer areas.

"It's like bringing electricity to the masses at the turn of the (20th) century," Commissioner Trey Allen said.

The Columbia County Community Broadband Network project will include 60 free Wi-Fi hotspots in public locations such as parks, the senior center, libraries and community centers.

Knology, Comcast and other Internet providers will be able to lease access to the network to provide service to underserved areas of the county such as Harlem and Appling.

The grant is part of a federal stimulus package meant to create jobs and provide infrastructure for broadband services for underserved areas. Columbia County's grant was one of 23 awarded by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on Tuesday.

County officials hope to spur the creation of a high-capacity data center by the Medical College of Georgia, develop a countywide traffic and water-control system, and enhance public safety communications with the construction of five wireless towers.

County officials applied last year for the grant and offered to contribute more than $2.3 million to the project. Officials also pledged nearly $1.1 million in in-kind contributions, which include project management, equipment installation and land for signal towers, according to documents.

The county plans to lay 220 miles of fiber-optic cable and build about 60 towers, said Deputy Administrator Scott Johnson. Nearly 100 people will be employed. Johnson said planning discussions will start next week and construction should conclude within three years.

Last month, the commission authorized pursuing a regional broadband program grant with 12 other counties. That application is due March 15. Commission Chairman Ron Cross said winning this grant should improve chances for the regional grant.

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deekster
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deekster 03/03/10 - 09:47 am
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What became of the

What became of the $49,000,000 Riverwood Plantation, LLC paid to the CC BOE for their "island golf course"? Inquiring minds want to know? Why are all of the homes fronting on Hereford Farm Rd. for sale?

jamesaaronsnow
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jamesaaronsnow 03/03/10 - 10:42 am
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Forgive me here, but what

Forgive me here, but what about Richmond County? It is supposed to be for "poorer areas" and "underserved". Which County has the larger need? Just saying.

Spywriter
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Spywriter 03/03/10 - 12:16 pm
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@jamesaaronsnow Could be the

@jamesaaronsnow Could be the $4.5 MILLION match that Columbia County had to put up. http://www.columbiacountyga.gov/?page=516&recordid=1540&returnURL=%2find...

Forgive me if I'm wrong but where would Richmond County Taxpayers get that kind of $$.

Spywriter
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Spywriter 03/03/10 - 12:26 pm
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Just lovely. While Richmond

Just lovely. While Richmond County is furloughing employees and cutting public safety budgets and other counties are cutting staff and services, Columbia County is spending our taxpayer dollars like they grow on trees.

http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-02-02/columbia-county-want...

In addition to the above grant, Columbia County has their greedy little hands in ANOTHER application. I wonder how much that will cost the taxpayers in "applicant-provided match" funding.

jamesaaronsnow
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jamesaaronsnow 03/03/10 - 01:44 pm
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Spywriter-It may be true that

Spywriter-It may be true that Richmond County Taxpayers would be unable to afford to contribute. But would that not be a more suitable match for their "underserved/poorer areas" description in the grant vs. Columbia County? If we reward people who have money for giving money, we are only practicing self-destructive economics.

701
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Barry Paschal 03/03/10 - 04:23 pm
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Spywriter and jamesaaronsnow:

Spywriter and jamesaaronsnow: You both seem to be forgetting the point that the only way to get such a grant is to actually APPLY for it. Columbia County did, and got it. Don't blame them for getting the grant just because Richmond didn't apply.

jamesaaronsnow
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jamesaaronsnow 03/03/10 - 05:53 pm
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Is that true? Who is

Is that true? Who is responsible for that? They deserve some flak too.

Spywriter
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Spywriter 03/03/10 - 05:57 pm
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@jamesaaronsnow - The grant

@jamesaaronsnow - The grant required the match in order to be considered so yes, the funders of this grant (and most grants) reward people who have money for giving money. If Richmond County had the funds, I'm sure they would have gone after it too. Perhaps Richmond County's downtown wireless piece of crap explains why Richmond County didn't apply individually. They learned their lesson already when it came to operating it after the grant expired.

@Barry Paschal - I don't blame Columbia County for GETTING the grant. I do question the feasibility of using taxpayer funds as a match (which after some research includes new Columbia County government positions) when so many other government entities are furloughing, cutting budgets, and laying off people. I'm taking side bets on how long before Columbia County comes back to its citizens for a tax hike to cover the increased operating costs when the grant dollars run out.

However, I do commend Columbia County for taking a page from Savannah's playbook in getting 'grant' money to justify the taxpayer match for providing basic government infrastructure services while 'promising' future services to the taxpayer. Long story short, another perfect example of Columbia County government putting themselves first and expecting the taxpayers to cough up the money to pay for it.

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