Among the benefits: faster and more reliable Internet connections for homes and businesses.
Another $4.8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for broadband was announced last week. The application deadline is March 15, with awards announced by Sept. 30.
David Howerin, planning director for the NWGRC, said preliminary plans call for adding about 100 miles of fiber optic cable spurring out from a Norfolk Southern Corp. “fiber optic backbone infrastructure” that roughly parallels U.S. 27.
“This high-capacity, high-speed infrastructure connects Northwest Georgia to major telecommunications hubs in Atlanta, Chattanooga, Chicago, New York City and Jacksonville, Fla.,” Howerin said. “It’s a great economic tool, an asset to our region, and we need to take advantage of that.”
Cable also could be run from Rome to Calhoun and from Rockmart to Cartersville, to draw in fiber optic “islands” existing in Gordon and Bartow counties.
Tentatively, NWGRC would own the network and a local fiber optic company such as Summerville-based Parker Systems LLC would manage it.
David Parker told the NWGRC at its monthly meeting Thursday that his company already has more than 80,000 miles of fiber optic cable in the region.
“The fiber that’s placed on the railroad track today is kind of like an interstate, and we’d build the on and off ramps,” he said. “We’re connecting cities to the backbone.”
Parker was asked to work with the NWGRC’s telecommunications committee after the regional commission was approached with the partnership offer by Jerry Shearin, a principal in Blue Streak Cable & Telecommunications LLC and a former Paulding County commissioner.
Bill Steiner, executive director of the NWGRC, said Blue Streak has the experience to write a competitive proposal by the application deadline.
The agency had no money — or time — to design a network, Steiner said, hence the partnership instead of a request for proposals.
Details, including the amount of funding being requested, will be refined in the coming weeks. It’s possible, Steiner said, that Floyd County’s planned $26.6 million emergency communications system could count as the local match.
“It will be an extensive system, and if we can link with their towers it starts to build a 911 system up and down (U.S.) 27,” he said.
The county’s system is being funded through the 2009 special purpose, local option sales tax.
The groundwork for the fiber optic plan was laid in 2008-2009 through a state-funded TechSmart needs-assessment done for Floyd, Chattooga, Polk and Walker counties.
Billy Croker, chairman of the NWGRC, created an oversight committee chaired by Catoosa County Commissioner Ken Marks to work with staffers and Blue Streak. Marks has scheduled the first meeting for 10 a.m. Wednesday.