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South Georgia RITA

SGRITA Blakely hut and tower

SGRITA Blakely hut and tower

Comment from Nancy Cobb, Executive Director: I am excited to share with you links to two recent sources of positive press related to our $2.7 million BRIDGE award made a year ago to support the build-out of wireless broadband across 2,000 square miles in five rural, agricultural counties:

VIDEO – Georgia Farm Monitor produced an excellent video of the impact this technology is having across the 5-county region. I think the video does a great job of highlighting the necessity of high speed broadband in today’s global society and telling the story from a rural “grassroots” point of view.

ARTICLE – Telecommunications Online – “SGRITA Wants to Close Georgia’s Bandwidth Gap” This 4-page article highlights the fact that “with all the hype around the Obama administration’s $7.2 billion broadband stimulus bill, it is refreshing to see that some states such as Georgia are taking action today.” The article highlights connecting rural school districts, distance learning, agriculture, water conservation and the business community.

In July 2006 and November 2007, OneGeorgia awarded BRIDGE grants totaling $2,788,600 to the City of Arlington and the subsequently formed South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority to assess the technology needs and construct wireless broadband infrastructure to provide service to Baker, Calhoun, Early, Miller and Mitchell counties. The backbone of these rural counties is agriculture and, more recently, nature-based tourism. Wireless broadband provides these rural counties an opportunity to support the economy while protecting valuable resources. This project supports a system that will allow farmers to implement precision agricultural practices, thereby increasing profits, preserving natural resources and decreasing chemical and water usage. There will be multiple benefits to the counties in the area of business development, tourism, education and local government efficiency.

UPDATE-July 2008: The South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority (SGRITA) is near completion of Phase I of their wireless broadband project covering Baker, Calhoun, Miller, Early and Mitchell Counties in Southwest Georgia. Phase one consists of installing seventeen (17) towers or Radio Frequency (RF) equipment to build a wireless broadband backbone super beltway around the under-served 5 county area. Nine (9) smaller towers were installed at 9 of the 12 school facilities that have joined the SGRita Wireless Broadband Community. At this point all towers are installed with fencing to be completed this week. All network equipment has been installed and the Internet connection is in place at the SGRITA Network Operations Center (NOC) in Camilla. This Internet connection is already circulating a significant portion of the 180 mile super fast broadband backbone ring. (see comments and photos in our blog ) The radio frequency (RF) equipment is being installed with completion slated for August 8th. The network will undergo 30 days of rigorous testing prior to final acceptance. All school children will be online in the under-served areas prior to September 1st. During the fourth quarter of 08 Phase II of the project will begin the beta test and research phase. In this phase SGRITA will be investigating various equipment manufacturers for the “Fixed Wireless” phase of the project. Once the right equipment is found, this will be installed on the 17 backbone tower locations so that SGRITA can begin to service the farms, families and businesses in the unserved and under-served areas. With Fixed Wireless installations, there is equipment on the tower that broadcasts to the home. To receive service, proprietary equipment must be installed on the home and connected to the consumer’s computer or wireless router. At that point the user will have a premium always on connection like DSL or cable modem service. SGRITA expects to be installing customers on the Fixed Wireless portion in the First Quarter of 2009 if not before. Special thanks to OneGeorgia and to the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation district. Without these partnerships and a lot of work by these two agencies, this project would never have gotten off the ground.

Ronald E. Ham, SGRita Project Manager

Tagged: sgrita, bridge, broadband, dsl, internet, onegeorgia, georgia farm monitor, telecomminications magazine