Carlos Tobar

The future has never been brighter in terms of broadband internet services in Baldwin County and other rural counties across Georgia.

Expanded broadband services will soon be available throughout Baldwin County, according to Baldwin County Manager Carlos Tobar.

During Tuesday night’s county commission meeting, Tobar surprised commissioners and others in attendance by announcing that Gov. Brian Kemp had announced that Baldwin County is one of the recipients of a broadband grant totaling more than $917,000.

“The investment is $1,835,853,” Tobar said. “The areas that are going be serviced are in [Emily Davis’] district and [Henry Craig’s] district on the east side. There are areas that had no plans for broadband service.” 

 The county manager pointed out that the grant award will make it possible for the entire county, including the city limits of Milledgeville and unincorporated areas, to have access to high-speed broadband internet services.

A lot of proprietary information was shared during called and executive meetings over the past several weeks, Tobar said. 

“I think we received five different proposals in 2021,” he added. “They told us they could not reveal that information to the public.”

Tobar noted that the county did its due diligence.

He said county officials received information from Washington EMC and Tri-County EMC to ensure they didn’t duplicate what they, as companies, were planning to do.

“Cat Cronlund, our GIS coordinator, did a fantastic job of putting together all of the different maps so that you could see the areas that were uncovered,” Tobar said.

During some of the county executive sessions, the county manager said officials told providers that they must not compete with other entities providing broadband service.

Tobar publicly thanked Baldwin County School Superintendent Dr. Noris Price for writing a letter of support.

The letter, which was sent to the state officials, outlined the educational need to provide broadband services to all students in the county.

“We thank you for the match, the $151,000 that you provided,” Tobar said.

The county manager said since he started working in Baldwin County, expanded broadband has been mentioned by commission chairman Henry R. Craig repeatedly as a significant need for the county.

“I’m really glad to be able to make this announcement, especially in front of the board of education,” Tobar said.

Several members of the board of education attended the meeting as county officials honored Price with a proclamation for being selected as the 2022 Georgia School Superintendent of the Year.

The total broadband project comes to $1.8 million, Tobar said.

“Thank you, Dr. Price,” Craig said. “When COVID started, you were the loudest voice in our community about the importance of broadband. I think this is a great achievement for all of us. Everybody in our community will have the opportunity to have access to broadband — fast broadband.”

The grants were highly-competitive, Tobar said, noting they received more than 1,500 applications for broadband, along with water and sewer projects.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, Gov. Kemp announced awards totaling nearly $408 million to provide broadband access across the state.

The 49 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grant projects represent an investment of more than $738 million in Georgia after the matching funds are added to the grants.

“I awn very proud that Georgia is once again leading the nation in developing collaborative, innovative, and fiscally conservative ways to leverage government funding to positively impact and serve as many Georgians as possible,” Kemp said in a press release. “I want to thank all of the members on the Broadband Infrastructure Committee, as well as the grant’s team at the Georgia Office of Planning and Budget, and the broadband and special projects team at the Georgia Technology Authority for working together to score applications and recommend projects that reflect the greatest needs and interests of hardworking Georgians.”

Kemp pointed out that he ran for governor on a promise to bring opportunity to rural Georgians.

“If you look at the map of Georgians, who now have access to rural broadband, you will see a promise kept,” Kemp said.

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