With the Broadband Community Ready ordinance in place, Floyd County is ready to work with any broadband providers who wish to expand their service locally.
“Broadband Ready allows us to have a process in place for any broadband providers or projects that come through our area,” said County Manager Jamie McCord. “It gives us a single point of contact, clarifies the permit process, defines any fees if necessary. ... We were already doing this, but now it’s formalized.”
Floyd County commissioners passed the Broadband Community Ready Ordinance at their meeting on Tuesday night.
For now, officials want to focus on the unserved areas in Floyd County, rather than the underserved.
“We first want people with no options to have options,” McCord said.
According to a map provided by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, about 9% of Floyd County doesn’t have access to broadband internet.
COVID-19 has proven the internet is a utility more than a luxury, especially for students, McCord said.
While many of these areas may not have any homes or businesses, there are still a handful of Floyd residents who don’t have internet access — including the Chubbtown community in Cave Spring as well as some homes on Texas Valley Road.
McCord met with members of the Chubbtown community last week to discuss broadband access.
“They’re very interested in our options for broadband and we know broadband is an approved use of the American Rescue Plan Act funds,” McCord said during caucus Tuesday.
Floyd County will receive $19.1 million in ARPA funds to use until 2024.
When it comes guidelines for that funding, McCord said there are three things local governments can spend money on without going through hoops: water, sewer and broadband projects.
County officials have considered seeking broadband grants, but McCord said the community is less likely to be awarded a grant since 91% of the county does have internet access. Neighboring counties have larger unserved populations.
While the county won’t be providing broadband, they would be able to work as a partner with providers that come into the area. Using ARPA funds, they could build infrastructure to accommodate broadband expansion. The internet provider would then be the owner of that infrastructure.
After becoming a Broadband Ready Community, Floyd County will be put on a list with other communities and local governments that “aren’t obstacles” for broadband providers, McCord said.
“We’re going to start evaluating providers and hopefully they’ll come to the table as partners where we can help assist them getting infrastructure into unserved areas,” McCord said.