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Moving closer to wireless Internet

Decatur County officials will likely speed up their plans to make wireless, high-speed Internet available throughout the county, a move that would be a boon to local businesses and residences who don’t currently have access to such a service.

If county commissioners sign off on the deal, Decatur County will partner with Main Street Broadband of Atlanta to begin building a wireless Internet service in early 2010, with the service becoming available later in the year, according to County Finance Director Carl Rowland.

Main Street Broadband is expected to begin marketing the service soon in anticipation of county commissioners’ giving their OK to begin putting the necessary infrastructure in place, Rowland said Tuesday.

County commissioners will probably take a vote on the matter at their next regular meeting, on Dec. 8, Rowland said.

The initial phase, which could begin within the next two to three months, would require the laying of fiber optics to connect the county to existing Internet backbone. The fiber optics would be hooked up to transmitters attached to several tall towers, including two that the county already has available, at the Decatur County Jail and near Whigham.

The technology, called WiMax, would allow any business or home with a data receiving device similar to a cable modem or DSL modem to access the Internet. Main Street is already offering a wireless Internet service in several southeast Georgia cities.

While some of the contractual and technical details are still being worked out, both county officials and Main Street Broadband representatives have already met with various groups who might have an interest in using the new service, including schools, libraries, farmers and agricultural businesses, industries and health care.

“We’ve gathered some very good information on the needs of potential users,” Rowland said.

The county is still waiting to hear whether it will receive additional monies to set up the network from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, Rowland said. However, work could go ahead using part of an $8.5 million general obligation bond the county government issued earlier this year to fund a subset of the projects voters approved for the fifth local installment of the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

Main Street Broadband’s Web site is www.mainstreetbb.com,