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Vice President Biden, Governor Perdue Announce Funding for North Georgia Network

Thursday, December 17, 2009  Contact: Office of Communications 404-651-7774

DAWSONVILLE – Vice President Joe Biden joined Governor Sonny Perdue today to announce a total of $42 million in local, state, federal and private funding to create a 260-mile fiber optic loop that will enable broadband access through eight North Georgia counties.

“New broadband access means more capacity and better reliability in rural areas and underserved urban communities around the country. Businesses will be able to improve their customer service and better compete around the world,” said Vice President Biden. “This is what the Recovery Act is all about – sparking new growth, tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and giving folks the tools they need to help build a new economy in the 21st-century.”

“Broadband is the new dial tone of the 21st century,” said Governor Perdue. “Internet access is as important to our communications infrastructure today as reliable telephone service was a century ago. Creating an advanced network will promote economic development, expand educational opportunities and improve the availability and efficiency of government services.”

In August 2009, the North Georgia Network applied to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and to the OneGeorgia Authority’s Bridge Program to build 135 miles of fiber optic network and to lease additional fiber from Atlanta Gas Light and Ellijay Telephone to create a 260-mile loop through 8 counties in North Georgia. The federal government is supplying $33 million in funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, OneGeorgia is providing $2.5 million in funding, local EMCs are providing $4 million, and local governments are providing $2.5 million.

Governor Perdue has been a strong advocate for Georgia broadband projects in discussions with Vice President Biden and in letters to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Governor Perdue began working on bringing broadband to rural areas of the state in 2006 when the General Assembly, at the Governor’s request, appropriated funds to expand wireless broadband access. The OneGeorgia Authority, chaired by Governor Perdue, established a separate program to assist rural communities seeking to establish broadband networks of any kind.

In 2006, the Governor said, “The goal of my Broadband Initiative is to ensure that every Georgia community is plugged in to the global economy with the broadband connectivity that individuals and businesses need.”

Today’s announcement was made at Impulse Manufacturing, a precision metal fabrication company that employs 150 people and has customers around the world. The company invests heavily in capital equipment and new software technologies, but its networking capabilities are extremely limited due to the slow upload and email files frequently “bounce back” to customers. Larger files are difficult to download. Impulse wants to improve its service by offering customers a portal so they can log directly into software systems for real-time manufacturing information, but the technology in Dawson County is not sufficient. Without better network capacity and improved reliability, Impulse’s opportunities for growth would be severely limited.

The eight counties impacted directly include Lumpkin, Dawson, Union, White, Habersham, Rabun, Towns and Forsyth counties with a combined population of 334,000. The project will serve more than 9,000 businesses; pass through 146 county government facilities, 82 public schools, 7 technical institutions, colleges and universities and 4 hospitals. Construction on the network will begin in the first quarter of 2010 and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012.

The OneGeorgia Authority was created utilizing one-third of the state’s tobacco settlement to assist the state’s most economically challenged areas. The OneGeorgia Authority is expected to receive about $1.6 billion over the 25-year term of the settlement. From the Authority’s inception to-date, OneGeorgia has made 458 awards totaling $251 million leveraged against total project investment of $5 billion, a return on investment of 20:1. Impacting 132 economically-depressed counties, more than 45,000 jobs have been retained and created.

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