In 2009, the North Georgia Network became the first organization to receive a federal grant to build out a broadband network to an underserved region of the United States, and in 2012 the dream has become a reality with the official completion of the $42 million project. North Georgia Network is the first federal project to reach completion under the Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP).
“Through cooperative effort, the network has changed the shape of education, business and the economy across the rural counties of North Georgia,” said Paul Belk, North Georgia Network President and CEO, and a former Dalton resident. “The fiber optic network opens North Georgia to global business by helping local businesses grow and create more jobs. The goal was to create a network to support a new technology-based economy for generations to come, and we’ve accomplished that.”
In addition, the network represents has been certified as having carrier grade standards after testing by TPRC Broadband. TPRC Broadband’s test of the NGN core yielded 99.996 percent throughput, which tests how accurately the network carries heavy data. The test also yielded a latency of 2.15 milliseconds, which is the amount of time it takes for 10 gigabytes of data to pass through the 260-mile core.
“The goal of everyone involved in the North Georgia Network was to build a world class network to change the shape of education and business in north Georgia,” Belk said. “The third-party certification by TPRC shows we’ve put that network in place. Through high-speed fiber optics we can open up North Georgia to global business, helping local businesses grow and create more jobs.”
Communities make commitment
In 2007, economic development and educational leaders in North Georgia identified the need for more reliable and more affordable high-speed Internet access if the region wanted to compete for new businesses. Time after time, businesses chose not to relocate to North Georgia because the Internet connection and communications systems did not meet their needs.
The North Georgia Network was formed through a joint effort of economic development professionals in Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin, Union and White counties, and from the University of North Georgia, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC and Habersham EMC.
Community investment was the key. It began in 2008 with a $240,000 grant from OneGeorgia for a broadband feasibility study. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC and Habersham EMC became major backers, committing $4.9 million to the project. The University of North Georgia came on board, providing $800,000. Lumpkin, Dawson, Forsyth, Union, White counties contributed $215,000 and OneGeorgia followed up with $2.5 million.
With local communities invested, the North Georgia Network turned to federal funding. In 2009, the North Georgia Network was awarded the first grant from BTOP, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The $42 million grant was awarded to build a 1,100-mile fiber optic network.
“It took all the communities coming together to make the North Georgia Network a reality,” said Bruce Abraham, board director of the network’s new economic development company, Connect North Georgia. “We saw a need, and we made a big commitment to move the region forward and open up new opportunities.”