Rural wireless Internet on horizon

Published 8:34 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

People stuck with slow Internet in the rural corner of Southwest Georgia could get access to much faster service in the next few years, if local government leaders’ plans are realized.

Decatur, Grady, and Seminole counties are set to jointly seek out state and federal government money to help upgrade communications infrastructure. Decatur County commissioners signed off on the agreement Tuesday evening, and their counterparts in Grady and Seminole counties are expected to follow shortly.

The upgrade would improve wireless communications for public safety agencies, like law enforcement emergency medical responders and firefighters by installing new communications towers and related equipment, County Administrator Tom Patton said. Another development which the counties’ agreement could bring about is the possibility of making wireless high-speed Internet to rural residents and businesses.

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“The technology is there, it’s a matter of getting the grant money,” Patton told The Post-Searchlight. “Some of the grant money would go toward engineering studies on where to place more [telecommunications] towers.”

While the counties have made steps toward applying for potentially millions of dollars in grant money from state and federal agencies, Patton said the necessary communications upgrades could take 2-3 years to complete. Once they are complete, the counties hope to offer wireless Internet to rural citizens at an affordable rate, possibly as low as $30 per month, according to Patton.

Five other Southwest counties have partnered to do similar telecommunications upgrades. Baker, Calhoun, Early, Miller and Mitch