Federal COVID Relief Aid To Deliver $250 Million To Help Bridge Georgia’s Digital Divide
Federal COVID Relief Aid to Deliver $250 Million to Help Bridge Georgia’s Digital Divide
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A significant sum of $250 million in grant funding is available for numerous Georgia counties that have limited access to high-speed internet. This funding, provided through last year’s federal pandemic relief aid, has been highlighted by Georgia’s U.S. senators as a potential boost to connectivity for tens of thousands of homes and businesses in rural areas of the state.
During a virtual press conference, Sen. Jon Ossoff emphasized the importance of this funding, stating that it is crucial for small businesses, farmers, schools, families, and students who rely on home-based schoolwork in the afternoons. He believes that universal access to high-speed internet is essential for the state’s overall prosperity.
Sen. Raphael Warnock added that expanding broadband infrastructure is vital to maintaining Georgia’s economic growth.
The grant funding is part of the American Rescue Plan Act, a relief package worth $1.9 trillion that was introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.
The pandemic highlighted the stark disparities in high-speed internet access across the state, especially as remote learning became the norm for many students. State officials discovered that nearly 136,000 student households did not have access to reliable internet at the time.
Improving broadband access in sparsely populated communities has been a long-standing challenge for state leaders. Despite a slight improvement, a report released last year by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Technology Authority revealed that approximately 9% of communities in Georgia still lack access to acceptable quality broadband, leaving 482,374 locations without reliable internet.
Moreover, about 13% of households in Georgia struggle to achieve download speeds of 100 megabits per second, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
The federal grant funding will be distributed to service providers in predominantly rural counties through a program called the Coronavirus Capital Projects Fund, managed by the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget. Governor Brian Kemp announced this aid in the fall, independent of the federal coronavirus relief bill.
Sen. Ossoff emphasized the need for responsible management of taxpayer dollars and ensuring that the state of Georgia implements the program in line with their intentions to bridge the digital divide.
Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, which comprises a network of news bureaus supported by grants and donor contributions as a 501(c)(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains its editorial independence. For any inquiries, reach out to Editor John McCosh at email@example.com. Stay updated by following Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.
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