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of $234 million in 29 preliminary grant awards for broadband Internet expansion across Georgia. These awards will improve connectivity within Wheeler County by expanding GTC’s buried fiber optic Gigabit network, allowing the company to reach more underserved and unserved residents within the County, said GTC’s CEO and Owner Jim O’Brien.
The awards, made available through the Capital Projects Fund Grant Program announced in August 2022 by the Governor, utilizes funds from the American Rescue Plant Act to improve connectivity for communities, households, businesses, and anchor institutions in 28 Georgia counties. When combined with significant capital matches from the awardees, almost $455 million will be invested to serve over 76,000 locations in communities with some of the greatest need for high-speed internet access.
The Governor’s Office of Planning & Budget and the Georgia Technology Authority worked together to identify the most unserved and underserved counties in the state and establish a competitive grant program.
'Georgia is again leading the nation in identifying where the digital divide is the deepest and acting on that knowledge to improve service for hardworking people all the way from Seminole County to Gordon County and beyond,' said Governor Kemp. 'High-speed internet access is critical for both academic and economic opportunities, as well as overall quality of life. These projects will go a long way to helping Georgians in some of the most unserved and underserved parts of the state become better connected.”
The awards follow the historic $408 million in preliminary grant funds that the state announced in February of last year. Together, the programs equal nearly $650 million in grant funds that will work hand-in-hand with hundreds of millions of additional matching funds. These investments and the projects associated with these two grant programs aim to serve roughly 200,000 of the remaining 455,000 unserved locations in the state.
The $4.8 million dollar CPF award for GTC will build out 146 route miles of buried fiber optic construction within Wheeler County. “We feel this is a huge win for not only Glenwood Telephone Company but also the residents and businesses of Wheeler County,” O’Brien said.
“This is the beginning of the end of the digital divide in Wheeler County Georgia. We are excited we will be able to offer affordable Internet access to Wheeler County’s largest Gigabit fiber optic network to so many underserved and unserved residents in Wheeler County. I am eager to begin the awards process and work toward serving the CPF eligible locations. In the meantime we will continue our work extending our fiber optic footprint in Wheeler County.”
Founded in 1943, Glenwood Telephone Company (GTC) is the smallest, privately owned independent telephone company in Georgia. GTC provides voice and data services to an approximate 13-square-mile Incumbent Local Exchange Carrier (ILEC) service area along the bluff side of Oconee River in Wheeler and Laurens counties.
Representative Leesa Hagan, R-Lyons, whose District 156 includes Wheeler County, said of the impact the grant will have, “We all understand that a community without access to adequate internet is going to lag behind other parts of Georgia. That’s why this announcement by Governor Kemp that GTC is a recipient is such great news. Rural Georgia matters and this grant will go a long way to help those residents realize the opportunity that other parts of Georgia already enjoy.”
The 29 awardees include 12 different internet service providers comprised of EMCs, large telecommunications companies, and local Georgiabased companies. The state will open a second round of the Capital Projects Fund Grant Program for five eligible counties that did not receive an award this Spring (Calhoun, Echols, Johnson, Miller, and Webster Counties).