The covid-19 pandemic brought to light the need to expand high-speed internet into our rural community for education, health care, business and working from home. To address this priority, the Grady County Archway Partnership has just launched a new Broadband Issue Work Group of local stakeholders to understand this technology and to collaborate on opportunities to increase availability, internet speed and services.

The group includes a wide range of representatives from internet service companies, school system, small business, healthcare, local governments, electric membership cooperative and citizens.

The first Broadband Issue Work Group Meeting kicked-off in March and served as an opportunity for those attendees to talk about the needs and concerns for rural broadband in Grady County.

“These meetings consist of professionals with strong backgrounds in the broadband and technology world,” said Julian Brown, executive director of the Joint Development Authority and chair of the work group. “This group understands the importance of working together to educate the community on ways to improve broadband access, speeds and capacity. Attendees were also able to participate in a mini-SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of broadband service and discuss the results.

During the second meeting, the group of attendees were able to hear from Chris Chammoun with the Georgia Centers of Innovation, a division of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. Chammoun shared ideas that worked well in other rural communities across the state, as well as hosted a brainstorming session among attendees focused on local collaboration.

The depth of the broadband issue was recently highlighted by some work from the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, the Archway Partnership’s fellow unit in the Public Service and Outreach Office at the University of Georgia. The Vinson Institute built a map using a geographic information system data set that contained every address in the state. The map shows the availability of broadband across the state down to the county level. Unveiled by Governor Brian Kemp last year, it was created as part of the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative, a multiyear collaboration between the governor’s office, the Technology Authority and internet service providers.

Eric McRae, the associate director of Information Technology Outreach Services at the Vinson Institute and who oversaw the creation of the map, noted that 10% of the state does not have broadband access.

“That’s not too bad, or doesn’t seem like it is. But when you actually start thinking about it, that’s a million people that don’t have service,” McRae told UGA Today.

In Grady County, that number is estimated at 30% with several thousand unable to get reliable or high-speed internet.

These issue work group meetings are held monthly on the second Tuesday of the month at 10:00 am. The meetings are currently hosted on Zoom, with the intentions of transitioning to in-person possibly later in the year. The next Broadband Issue Work group will be held, May 11.

If you would like to be part of the conversation, contact Grady County Archway Professional Whitney Brannen at