On Air Now

Listen Now


H 88° L 62°
  • cloudy-day
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 88° L 62°
  • clear-day
    Sunny. H 88° L 62°
  • clear-night
    Clear. H 91° L 69°

Wsb news on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb traffic on-demand

00:00 | 00:00


Wsb weather on-demand

00:00 | 00:00

State & Regional Govt & Politics
Georgia unveils plan for internet service in rural areas

Georgia unveils plan for internet service in rural areas

Georgia unveils plan for internet service in rural areas
Photo Credit: Jenna Eason
Daniel Frizzell, the director of engineering at Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, left, explains the way in which the Young Harris-based cooperative provides internet service to rural areas. Jeremy Nelms, the manager of Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, is with him. Jenna Eason / Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com

Georgia unveils plan for internet service in rural areas

A newly released Georgia broadband plan outlines a path for rural areas to get online, a key step toward building internet lines to some of the roughly 1.6 million residents who lack fast connections.

The 14-page blueprint, unveiled this month, could result in internet providers receiving a piece of $600 million in federal money set aside to fund broadband construction in areas that currently lack it.

The plan also calls for the state government to create a map of every location in the state without high-speed internet by sometime next year, an effort that will identify areas that could receive potential future state money.

But internet construction might still be years away. It would likely cost more than $3 billion in public and private investment to wire the state, and so far the only money that’s been appropriated is $2 million for the state broadband plan and mapping effort.

Georgia officials say internet access is essential for the survival of rural areas, where businesses, schools, hospitals and farmers need to be online. While the broadband plan won’t fix the problem, it moves the state closer, Georgia Department of Community Affairs Commissioner Christopher Nunn said.

“The solution to broadband in the state of Georgia is not a rifle-shot, one-size-fits-all solution,” Nunn said. “It’s a patchwork that involves many different providers working in partnership to address the needs in various parts of the state.”

At least five rural projects are seeking federal grant funding, and the May 2 publication of Georgia’s broadband plan will give those applicants extra points under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program, Nunn said. The deadline for the first round of grant funding is Friday.

Winning projects could receive up to $25 million each. Federal funding could go to partnerships between internet companies, electric membership cooperatives and local governments. The applicants and areas seeking grant funding haven’t been identified.

Attempts to raise state money for internet construction fell short this year and last year. The Georgia General Assembly had considered levying a 4 percent tax on streaming video and digital downloads, but that legislation didn’t pass. Internet companies say they’d need subsidies to make the service profitable in sparsely populated areas.

Without much public money for rural internet so far, the state government has taken the more deliberative approach of planning and mapping the state, as envisioned in legislation approved last year.

“It is a large task,” said Deana Perry, the state’s broadband director. “There are a lot of unserved areas throughout the state that need to have connectivity to be economically competitive with other regions.”

Perry said she’s seen the impact of poor internet access where she’s from, in Chattooga County in northwest Georgia.

When a small business’ internet went down on a recent Saturday, it couldn’t process credit card transactions, she said. Across the state, rural areas have been losing population and businesses to more connected areas.

Besides the broadband plan, Georgia’s most significant move toward expanding internet came through legislation that allows electric membership cooperatives and telephone cooperatives to sell online access. It’s unclear how many cooperatives will decide to offer internet service.

“The state’s broadband plan is going to make a big difference in helping to bridge the digital divide, but it’s not going to happen overnight,” said Bill Verner, a senior vice president for Georgia EMC, a trade association that serves the state’s 41 electric membership corporations. “It’s a very large challenge.”

While state lawmakers have provided a framework for internet expansion, details of how government grants would be awarded and funded haven’t been decided, said Riley Blount, a spokesman for AT&T.

Legislators have said they could revive the idea of a digital tax, or they could decide to use general tax money without a new funding source.

The broadband plan “takes an important first step to map the current state of broadband in Georgia,” Blount said. “There are key details, including the structure of the grant program, that could be improved by lawmakers and will continue to be discussed.”

Georgia broadband plan

  • Map every location in the state to determine what areas lack internet access.
  • Create a framework for future government funding of internet construction.
  • Provide state assistance to internet providers and local governments.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

Read More


  • Multiple people are in the hospital or dead following some sort of party or event in Pittsburgh, according to police.  Police said seven people are involved in what they are calling a medical situation at SouthSideWorks City Apartments. Police said five people were found in an apartment and one was in an elevator. Another person was found on the street. >> Read more trending news  Around 2 a.m., one victim called 911 for help, police said. 'Director Wendell Hissrich confirms three dead and four in hospital with conditions ranging from serious to critical,' Pittsburgh public information officer Chris Togner said in an update. Police said there were no initial signs of any drug paraphernalia or needles found during their investigation so far. Officers said all the victims were wearing orange wristbands. Investigators said they have identified two venues that had events using orange wristbands Saturday night. Investigators are asking anyone who attended or knows about this party or event involving orange wristbands to call police at 412-323-7141.
  • Actor Aron Eisenberg, who played Nog on 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' has died, reports say. He was 50 years old. >> Read more trending news  According to the official 'Star Trek' website and Fox News, Eisenberg's wife, Malissa Longo, first shared the news in an emotional Facebook post Saturday night. 'It is with extreme regret and sadness to announce that my love and best friend, Aron Eisenberg, passed away earlier today,' Longo wrote. 'He was an intelligent, humble, funny, emphatic soul. He sought to live his life with integrity and truth.' She added: 'He made me (and still makes me) want to be the best human I can possibly be, because he always strove to be the best human he could be. His resilience and willingness to learn was and is an inspiration.
  • Parents in one Georgia community say their kids' football games were canceled Saturday after two coaches got into a fight on the field. >> Read more trending news  WSB-TV's Alyssa Hyman was in South Fulton County, where an upset mom contacted WSB-TV after her son was sent home Saturday. LaPorschia Brown said her son plays with the Old National Knights Team, which is run by the city of South Fulton Parks and Recreation Department. Brown said Xavier's coach called her Saturday after she dropped him off to say he needed to be picked back up after the heated physical fight broke at Old National Park – between the adults. 'I get a call from one of his other coaches saying that I need to pick him up,' Brown said. 'It shut down an entire game. A couple of moms were really mad, like myself.' Brown said when she got to the park, police were at the scene, along with furious parents. Video appears to show a group of adults shouting and shoving each other as the kids look on.  The league ended up canceling all the games for the day, and police shut down the park due to safety concerns.  Hyman spoke to police, who said the park ranger unit responded to reports of a dispute between parents and coaches. A spokesperson said no one was arrested since police couldn't determine who started the fight.  Brown said she is frustrated and disappointed and expected more from her son's coaches. 'I know my son looks up to them. He doesn't have a father in his life,' Brown said. 'I thought I was putting people in his life that were good for him, but apparently, I was wrong.' Brown said angry parents are one thing, but disappointed kids are another. She said kids travel in from other states for some of the games and practice for them at least three times a week. 'I just feel like that's sad because the boys look forward to this, you know?' Brown said. 'Apologize to him. Don't apologize to me. He's the one that was hurt.' Hyman contacted the league commissioner, who sent the following statement:  'We are aware of the incident. Our city of South Fulton park rangers responded. We are working through the details of what transpired this afternoon. As we gather additional details, we will consider what additional steps may be taken. It is always our first priority ensure the safety of all of our patrons, citizens, youth and families.
  • An Atlanta mother is accused of chasing two teens with a bat at her son's bus stop and attacking one of them, police say. >> Read more trending news  She's now in jail, and police are looking for her son.  Police told WSB-TV's Tyisha Fernandes that Tiara Jones got involved in a fight between her son and two other Grady High School teens after the boys exchanged threatening messages on Instagram on Monday morning. Police said someone sent a 'spoof' message, pitting certain students at Grady High School against each other. Jones' son, Dashun McDonald, confronted the other two about the message at their bus stop, police said. Fernandes spoke to parent Alycia Aldridge, who said her son didn't even know McDonald. 'My son told him, 'First of all, I don't know you,' and he kind of backed down,' Aldridge said.  When the boys got to school, officials had heard about what happened and called them into the office.  'It was supposed to be squashed,' Aldridge said. 'They apparently bumped hands or shook hands, whatever it was, and went their separate ways.'  Later that afternoon, when the friends were walking home, they said McDonald approached them again, this time with his mom.  Aldridge said Jones accused the boys of trying to fight her son. Jones then went to her car, popped the trunk and pulled out a bat, Aldridge said. 'She's twirling the bat, telling them she's going to bust him in his head,' Aldridge said. 'You don't get to chase people's children and approach them with bats.' The boys got away and called 911, authorities said. Police took a report, but didn't arrest Jones right away.  The next morning, police said Jones showed up at the bus stop again and encouraged her son to fight. A student recorded the fight on a cellphone.  The video shows Jones trying to jump into the fight, and when a student wouldn't let her, she grabbed him by the hair and pushed him to the ground, WSB-TV reported. Students broke up the fight and got on the bus to go to school, but police said Jones followed the bus and told her son to fight the boy again.  Another video shows a school police officer thrown to the ground while trying to break up the fight, WSB-TV reported. Parent Shearee Pittman said the entire incident never should have happened.  'Had Atlanta police went to her Monday when I asked them to, just to arrest her for the stalking, none of this would have taken place Tuesday,' Pittman said. 'She wouldn't have been able to jump on that young man, those children wouldn't have been subjected to what they had to see, and she probably wouldn't be in jail.' 
  • A Canadian woman's video of two grizzlies duking it out on a British Columbia highway is going viral. >> Read more trending news  According to CTV News, Cari McGillivray shared the clip of the battling bears, which she spotted near Stewart on the Stewart Cassiar Highway, in a Facebook post Friday. 'Don’t normally post on here but thought I’d share this incredibly rare and amazing moment with all you guys of these grizzlies fighting!' McGillivray captioned the footage, which had racked up 550,217 views and 17,000 shares by Sunday morning. 'Keep a sharp eye out for the little wolf that is observing them in the distance!' 'Don’t normally post on here but thought I’d share this incredibly rare and amazing moment with all you guys of these grizzlies fighting!' McGillivray captioned the footage, which had racked up 550,217 views and 17,000 shares by Sunday morning. 'Keep a sharp eye out for the little wolf that is observing them in the distance!' She added on Instagram: 'Came to see bears fishing. Left with this amazing memorable moment! Still feeling the high from seeing these two majestic animals fighting!' Commenters called the video 'awesome' and 'incredible.' 'It's one of the most amazing scenes of nature I've seen,' Facebook user Leeanne Willoughby wrote. 'National Geographic stuff here.' 'Interesting to watch the argument!' added Jackie Wolski. 'Gotta finish it! See it my way!' Read more here.
  • Authorities are searching for a missing 2-year-old boy who may be with his 'armed and dangerous' father, the California Highway Patrol and Merced County Sheriff's Office said in an Amber Alert released Saturday. >> Read more trending news  AMBER ALERT – CHILD ABDUCTION – MERCED COUNTY – ARMED & DANGEROUSATWATER, CA – On September 21, 2019 the Merced County... Posted by Merced County Sheriff's Office on Saturday, September 21, 2019 According to KTLA, police believe Steven Weir, 32, abducted John Weir from Merced County, where they were last spotted Friday evening. The pair 'could possibly be heading to the Tuolumne or Calaveras County areas,' the Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post. Authorities described John Weir as a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy who was last seen wearing a blue T-shirt with tan shorts. Steven Weir, who is 5-foot-10 and weighs 300 pounds, has brown hair and eyes, the Amber Alert said. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with cargo shorts and may be traveling in a red 2005 Hyundai Elantra with California tag 5SKT544, police said. Authorities are urging anyone who sees the Weirs or their vehicle to call 911. Read more here or here.