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Gilmer and Pickens County Awarded $25 Million Broadband Project

ELLIJAY, Ga., Feb. 1, 2022 – Governor Brian P. Kemp and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) joined by members of the Broadband Infrastructure Committee and state leaders, today announced almost $408 million in preliminary awards which will provide communities, households, and businesses in 70 Georgia counties access to faster and more reliable broadband. 49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant projects were awarded of which the Joint Development Authority of Gilmer and Pickens County was one of the recipients.

The high-speed broadband initiative for rural Georgia was the result of the leadership of the House Rural Development Council created in 2017 by Speaker Ralston, Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) and the late Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla). Also active on the project was Senator Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper).

The Joint Development Authority of Gilmer and Pickens County is partnering with Ellijay Telephone Company (“ETC”) and leveraging a portion of their existing fiber network and resources, to build approximately 574 miles of high-speed fiber optics to serve 4259 customers in 334 unserved census block groups. To serve these locations maximizing cost efficiencies, this partnership is using ETC’s existing network that has already been deployed into many areas of Gilmer and Pickens Counties, totaling 100s of millions in investment value. The Joint Development Authority of Gilmer and Pickens County is also leveraging their recently announced partnership with Amicalola EMC that will provide more than 220 new miles of fiber optics across North Georgia.

“ETC is excited for this new opportunity to continue serving communities across North Georgia. We will be leveraging our recently announced partnership with Amicalola EMC, which is allowing us to construct mainline fiber optic infrastructure near many of these unserved census blocks. This new fiber, along with these state grants, now make these locations feasible. We also want to thank the Joint Development Authority of Gilmer and Pickens County for allowing us to partner with them on their application and all those community members who wrote letters of support for this application.” states Jason Smith, COO of ETC.

The project proposal states that “Gilmer and Pickens County has 27% and 17%, respectively, (Georgia Broadband Availability, 2021) of our population deemed to be unserved by the FCC’s minimum broadband definition of 25/3Mb. We believe the percentage is greater as our counties have seen an influx of new residents influenced to move by elements of COVID-19 and its variants. This lack of access to broadband creates problems within the counties in the forms of lack of access to virtual classrooms for K-12 and higher education, ability to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, efficient business operations for processes being conducted over broadband connections, and access to telemedicine.”

The Joint Development Authority of Gilmer and Pickens County’s broadband project is seeking to resolve these problems by:

•          Reducing the number of unserved broadband locations in our county

•          Building fiber-optic broadband network capable of symmetrical 2Gbps download and 2Gbps upload service

•          Share and promote our fiber broadband infrastructure benefits to visitors, prospective residents and industries

The project was awarded $21,418,727 ARPA grant funds, along with matching funds of $3,996,350 from ETC, for a total of $25,415,077.

The project should commence shortly and will be ongoing through at least 2026.

About Ellijay Telephone Company:

Established in 1903 as Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC), today ETC is a diversified communications company providing internet, telephone, cable television and security services. ETC serves residents and businesses in north Georgia and Tennessee. ETC actively evaluates opportunities to expand broadband in and around its service area. Currently, ETC has 2,708 miles of copper lines, 2,010 miles of coax cable and 652 miles of high-speed fiber.

About Amicalola EMC:

Amicalola EMC is a not-for-profit electric cooperative serving over 52,000 locations in north Georgia in portions of Bartow, Cherokee, Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Gordon, Lumpkin, Murray and Pickens counties. Founded in 1940, Amicalola EMC has provided electricity and related services to north Georgia for 80 years.

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