The U.S. Commerce Department’s NTIA has announced awarding of the grant to Appalachian Valley Fiber Network, a public/private partnership established to develop and expand broadband in the area.
It will involve projects in Bartow, Chattooga, Dade, Floyd, Gordon, Haralson, Paulding, Polk and Walker counties in Northwest Georgia and along the I-20 corridor in Cleburne, Calhoun and Clay counties in Alabama.
This includes construction of 187 miles of new fiber optic, broadband infrastructure and service. The project can provide a launching pad for job creation and business development that is closely tied to the availability of high capacity broadband, based on a recent technology study by the Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute.
Parker FiberNet has already established part of a network in Rockmart with a line placed down Piedmont Avenue in front of the new Municipal Complex to Van Wert Elementary School. The Company has connected its existing network to all of Polk’s schools and is in the process of providing service for Polk County Government including law enforcement.
Polk County Sheriff Kelly McClendon pointed out that enhanced communications is critical to providing protection to citizens in remote areas of the county.
“This project will address critical public safety needs and represents a positive investment for the citizens of Polk County," he said.
New broadband network opportunities will not only be available to Polk’s government but also the cities of Cedartown, Rockmart (including the downtown area) and Aragon.
The proposed route to Aragon also includes the 101 Business Park with 60 current acres and potential for a 180 acre track in Rockmart, which will enable it to be marketed as a fiber ready site. Over the past 10 years, more than 300 jobs have been created inside the Rockmart 101 Business Park, according to Eric McDonald, president, Polk County Chamber of Commerce.
Based on information included in the grant proposal, Polk County recently identified 17 Anchor Institutions, which would be available for broadband service.
The proposed AVFN fiber route will include a Harbin Clinic satellite location in Cedartown, Floyd Medical Center Urgent Care location in Cedartown, a Floyd Medical Center location in Rockmart, a Harbin Facility located on GA Hwy 101 near Aragon and a Floyd Medical Facility located on GA Hwy 113.
Plans include providing the availability of fiber to the northern part of Polk along GA Highway 27 North. The proposed route also includes access to Cedartown Industrial Park. Grant information notes this location now only has access to DSL, T1 and cable connectivity.
Tamaka Hudson, vice president, Polk County Chamber of Commerce, said completion of the broadband project is great news for local business owners.
“It will provide the foundation for new growth and expansion within our communities,” she said. “It is part of a plan to market the potential and development of this area.”
David Parker, Parker FiberNet, said the project is designed to provide a shot in the arm not only for Polk County but the entire region. He pointed out that a large industry with a heavy Internet base would not consider this region because they need the reliability of redundancy (more pathways for data transmission).
Parker emphasized that there is no comparable alternative, which provides regional point to point connectivity, a regional data center and reliable, redundant 5 Meg, symmetrical bandwidth for not only government, law enforcement, emergency services and businesses but also to health care facilities.
“There is no comparable, middle mile fiber service along the Norfolk Southern/I-20 corridor from Bremen, Georgia to Anniston, Alabama with connection to the carrier hotel at 56 Marietta,” he said.
According to Bill Steiner, Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, there is no commitment of local tax dollars. This fact finds favor with most communities where budgets remain tight due to the slow economy.
Ken Carlton, Rockmart native who handles Business Development for Parker FiberNet, said Polk has tremendous assets for growth. He focused on the natural beauty of the area, clean air and water, utilities and proximity to rail and interstates.
“We have people who need and want jobs and are willing to work,” he said. “The addition of a high capacity broadband network will enhance the marketability of our county as well as the region.”