Walker County Government will receive more than $6.2 million to improve broadband access in unserved and underserved communities. Georgia’s Broadband Infrastructure Committee selected Walker County’s proposal to expand gigabit access throughout the southern half of the county as one of 49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant projects.
Walker County will collaborate with Georgia Windstream, LLC to leverage their existing infrastructure, engineering experience and construction management to deploy a Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) solution to 3,339 homes and businesses in rural areas. The project involves extending 323 miles of fiber throughout the Armuchee Valley, Center Post and Kensington communities, among other locations.
The total estimated cost of the project is $11,264,066. The ARPA grant received by Walker County will fund 56% ($6,253,152) of the project cost, while Windstream will invest the remaining 44% ($5,010,914) required through this public-private partnership.
“The need for reliable and affordable broadband access was dramatically exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chairman Shannon Whitfield, Walker County Board of Commissioners. “Residents in areas with limited or no broadband access had to seek public Wi-Fi spots just to continue essential activities such as school, work, medical visits and church.”
Whitfield added, “Given the population density, topography and existing infrastructure, these areas would not be economically feasible to serve without this state funded program. I am grateful Governor Kemp and his team, Senator Jeff Mullis and many other state partners recognized the importance of this public-private partnership with Windstream to extend gigabit access toabout 87% of the unserved census blocks in Walker County.”
“Securing this grant is a tremendous success for Walker County,” said Sen. Mullis. “Access to rural broadband is among the most important issues of our day. This will help stimulate economic growth, increase learning opportunities for our children and make telemedicine more readily available. I want to thank Governor Kemp, Chairman Whitfield and all of the Walker County commissioners for their leadership on this.”
Georgia’s Broadband Infrastructure Committee, as well as the grants team at the Office of Planning and Budget and the special projects team at the Georgia Technology Authority, scored applications from across the state and recommended projects that reflect the greatest needs and interests of Georgians.
A start date for the buildout has not been established yet. Under the requirements of the ARPA grant, the fiber deployment must be completed by the end of 2026.