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City, County apply for second grant to bring wireless to area counties

One strike doesn't mean McDuffie County's wireless future is out.

Kelly Evans, Information Technology Director for Thomson and the county, recently learned that the application her department turned in for a Wireless Communities Georgia grant was denied.

But she and the four other counties in the Clarks Hill Partnership, along with the CSRA Regional Development Center, have submitted an application for a Broadband Rural Initiative to Develop Georgia's Economy grant from the OneGeorgia Authority.

Initially, the grant would fund a study to find out the most economically and logistically viable approach to providing wireless internet connectivity to McDuffie, Warren, Wilkes, Lincoln and Columbia counties. Most probably that means providing access around the more populated areas to spur economic development.

"For example, it's not economically feasible to cover McDuffie County in a wireless umbrella," Mrs. Evans said. "A good portion of all that land out at the lake is wildlife management area. You don't want to put wireless up over that."

Because more than two counties are working in conjunction to submit the grant, there is no limit to the funding the project could receive. According to the OneGeorgia website, funding will be based on the regional application's strength, "including technology design, strategy and sustainability."

OneGeorgia uses money from the state's tobacco settlement to develop some of the most economically challenged areas. Officials expect $1.6 billion to be available over the 25-year term of the settlement. A total of $5 million is available this year for BRIDGE grants across the state.

Mrs. Evans said input from the Wireless Communities grant application has furthered the process with the BRIDGE grant. She said the first grant application served as the basis for the newest application.

"Their recommendation was that they not award Wireless Communities, but that we apply for BRIDGE," Mrs. Evans said, adding that Wireless Communities was aimed at cities and downtown areas. "They thought we were better suited for BRIDGE."

Web posted on Thursday, October 26, 2006

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