USDA Awards $4.4M to Gilmer County for Broadband Enhancement Project

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced a $4.4M USDA ReConnect grant award for the Ellijay Telephone Company in Gilmer County on Feb. 7. The funds will benefit the Gilmer County Rural Broadband Enhancement Project, an initiative intended to provide 90 miles of new optical fiber transport facilities.

Ellijay is in Congressional District 9 and has a population of 3,606 people and 1,425 households. This Broadband Enhancement Project will benefit those households as well as local farms and businesses, who all lack sufficient access to broadband, by providing up to 1 Gigabits per second (Gbps) synchronous service with a fiber-to-the-home deployment.

Gov. Brian Kemp said, “This funding from USDA illustrates the importance of investing in progress. Economic development is an essential part of Georgia’s ranking as a top state in which to do business. Broadband access will not only boost the local economy in Ellijay, but it will also enhance the quality of life for families in that community.”

On Jan. 27, USDA opened another application window for the second round of the $550 million in ReConnect funding which will be used to enable partnerships with the federal government, private sector and rural communities for broadband deployment. The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) works regularly with communities such as Banks, Oglethorpe and Evans counties and cities like Woodbury to become “Broadband Ready.”

DCA also offers technical assistance to USDA applicants by providing the State of Georgia’s Broadband Plan and Gov. Kemp’s Letter of Commitment. Projects can be awarded as much as 20 scoring points with these documents.

“The benefits of this funding are tremendous,” DCA Commissioner Christopher Nunn said. “The advantages of the forthcoming internet access in this community will have long-term benefits in essential areas such as education, healthcare and industry. As more communities strive toward broadband readiness, our team will continue our work to provide crucial support and resources toward helping them accomplish this goal.”