Oconee to invest $4.5 million in internet connectivity | News

In a matter of life and death, Erin Wood’s cell phone provider failed her.

As her 1-year-old baby was having a seizure, Wood tried three times to call 911 before running outside to pick up a signal in the middle of the driveway. The delay was only a minute, but it felt incredibly longer, Wood said.

Two years later, cell service off Antioch Church Road where she resides is still weak, and internet connection is even more unreliable. Wood can’t help but think that if she had faster internet with WiFi calling, she could reach emergency services immediately and from anywhere in her house.

Wood, a nurse practitioner, also missed out on several good job opportunities in telemedicine due to poor internet connection. For years, she had called Internet providers with no satisfying results.

“The private sector has chosen not to take this on,” Board of Commissioners Chuck Horton said late last month when discussing a public-private partnership to improve broadband connectivity throughout the county. “We are doing this for the people.”

On Tuesday, the BOC approved a 20-year contract with Smart City Capital of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to create a new company that would sell broadband services to citizens following the installation of 540 miles of fiber-optic cable. The project involves underground fiber as well as towers that would broadcast wireless internet and allow the cell providers to collocate. The buildout of the infrastructure, which includes an 80-mile ring foundation, will take about two and a half years. 

For more on this story, see the Oct. 8 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.