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Fiber-optic network coming to Columbia County

By Max Burkhalter
January 5, 2011
Columbia County, Georgia plans to complete its fiber-optic cable installation in the next year, providing schools, public institutions and private citizens with access to broadband internet.

According to a recent report from the Columbia County News-Time, the network will eventually use more than 200 miles of fiber-optic cable to provide internet to the rural region. Currently, little is known about the program's eventual impact because government officials have been slow to market the network to telecoms in the region. However, Columbia County deputy administrator Scott Johnson told the news source the uncertainty will change when the county completes the first phase of the construction.

Once the first line of cable is in the ground, Johnson said the government will begin explaining the benefits of fiber optics to local telecoms. The construction recently began, and the county expects the first 25 miles of line to be installed before the end of May. Another four phases of installation will be carried out afterward, with plans to complete construction by January 2012.

By the time construction has finished, Columbia County plans to reach a wide audience with the fiber-optic service. The local library is expected to be the first customer, as stage one of construction will begin in its vicinity. The project is considered by some to be an important part of the county's development because current fiber-optic penetration only brings broadband service to the region's few densely populated areas.

The fiber-optic installation will be accompanied by other networking solutions in the area, with a heavy focus on improving wireless internet and mobile phone access. Much of the western portion of the county lacks consistent signal for internet access, but that is expected to change because the fiber-optic installation will allow the county to construct new towers to expand signal to the region.

Most of the installation's funding comes from the Broadband Technology Opportunity Program, which provided a grant worth $13.5 million. The rest of the $18 million project will be paid for through a 1 percent sales tax.

According to a recent Oxford Press report, many telecom providers are currently vying for the opportunity to provide services in Butler County, Ohio, and the surrounding region because the previous fiber-optic provider recently closed. New services could include using previous lines to provide services and installing new fiber-optic cables. Many local providers hope to expand fiber-optic cable networks to provide faster speeds and advanced services.


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