Connectivity to wider world via the internet remains an ongoing problem for many residents in Polk County.
Sure, they might have the opportunity to get satellite internet if they live too far from the center of Cedartown or Rockmart, or they can access the slow and clunky dial-up via phone lines that still exists for some.
Yet to grow the available opportunities for youth and adults alike outside of the city limits into the remote corners of the county, some real work is going to have to get underway. That’s the goal of Commissioner Jennifer Hulsey, who said that an upcoming meeting on Oct. 3 of leaders from around the region will help determine a potential path forward on connecting every part of the county to high speed internet.
Having a connection to the internet is the same struggle today that residents of rural Georgia faced in the early half of the 20th century, when expansion of electrical grids took longer than those in urban areas.
It took programs like electrical cooperatives and the Tennessee Valley Authority to bring widespread and reliable electrical service to rural communities, since larger utilities that still exist in some form today weren’t investing in rural communities.
So if the big providers of internet services won’t bring the connections to the furthest corners of Polk County and areas like it, Hulsey and other are looking at different ways to bring broadband to customers who need the higher speeds than they currently get.
“The purpose of the regional meeting coming up on Oct. 3, where schools and the county governments will be working together to resolve the broadband issue, and working with the state to come up with some new solutions,” Hulsey said.
She’s has been advocating for change and at work on the broadband issue for more than a year, and was one of the initial members of the broadband committee formed in 2017 within the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission.
Her hope is that through better connectivity, Polk County residents can take advantage of greater business and educational opportunities available online to those with fast connections.
What she needs first though is an idea of how truly underserved residents of the county are when it comes to their options for high speed connectivity.
"I would encourage everyone who is having issues with broadband to get in touch," Hulsey said. "We need citizen's help to make sure that everyone is getting the best possible connection they can in order to ensure our residents have the best opportunities to connect to the world at large."
She added that eventually another survey will be forthcoming, but for the moment she's hoping to get residents to reach out so that a focus on specific areas of Polk County can be used.
Those who are willing to provide Hulsey with information about their connectivity options can call or text her at 404-694-2470.
Right now, the options available to Polk County for connectivity start with Cedartown and Rockmart’s available service providers, Comcast, Charter, and AT&T. The further out one goes, the less options are available. Cellular connectivity is provided by several carriers in the area as well, like AT&T, Verizon, T-Moble, Sprint and others.
However their coverage is based on both access to existing cell towers and infrastructure, and the ability to broadcast signal in hilly terrain.
Satellite providers like HughesNet do give people connectivity options, but download speeds are much greater than those when people are uploading. That service is like other satellite connections affected by weather.
Companies are working on solutions to the problem. For instance, AT&T is working on a plan to setup wireless broadband through a series of connections using existing power lines. Electrical cooperatives in the state are also pushing to gain entry into providing internet service alongside cable and telecom operators already in place, and use power poles already in place to run lines to homes.
Hulsey said she hopes to be able to bring back news in October of developments that can help Polk’s rural residents who lack quality broadband access in the near future.