White House Awards First Broadband Stimulus Grants

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New broadband projectswill open up economic and educational opportunities in rural northern Georgia and other states, U.S. vice president Joe Biden said last Thursday.

Georgia, New York, Maine and other states will receive $182 million in economic stimulus funding from the U.S. government. Thursday's announcement was the first of $2 billion in broadband grants and loans President Barack Obama's administration will announce over the next month and a half.

The broadband projects will enable telemedicine to come to rural hospitals, and distance learning to come to rural schools, Biden said. "This is literally going to revolutionize the way rural Georgia works, learns and grows," he said.

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue called broadband the "new dial tone" of the 21st century. "Internet access is as important to our communications infrastructure today as reliable telephone service was a century ago," he said. "Creating an advanced network will promote economic development, expand educational opportunities and improve the availability and efficiency of government services."

Among those awards:

-- North Georgia Network Cooperative, a $33.5 million grant with an additional $8.8 million in matching funds to deploy a 260-mile regional fiber-optic ring to deliver gigabit broadband speeds.

-- Biddeford Internet, a $25.4 million grant with an additional $6.4 million in matching funds to build a 1,100-mile open access fiber-optic network extending to the most rural and disadvantaged areas of the state of Maine.

-- ION Hold, a $39.7 million grant with an additional $9.9 million in matching funds to build 10 new segments of fiber-optic, middle-mile broadband infrastructure, serving more than 70 rural communities in upstate New York and parts of Pennsylvania and Vermon

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