New state website points students to free internet connections

By Dave Williams
Bureau Chief
Capitol Beat News Service

ATLANTA – A major obstacle to the era of online instruction the coronavirus pandemic has forced on Georgia schools is that some students, particularly in rural communities, don’t have access to the internet at home.
The state Department of Community Affairs is stepping up to that challenge by providing information on public WiFi locations across the state.
The agency’s Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative has established a website featuring a map showing the various locations where students can connect to the internet. The website can be found at https://broadband.georgia.gov/georgia-internet-access-covid-19-update.
Many of the public WiFi locations are around the outsides of public buildings including libraries. While the buildings are closed because of the virus, their WiFi signal carries outside their doors.
Students must bring their own devices such as laptops, tablets and cellphones. Also, students are cautioned to follow the social distancing guidelines in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Expanding broadband connectivity in rural Georgia has been a goal of the General Assembly during recent legislative sessions. The state House of Representatives passed a broadband bill last month shortly before suspending the session indefinitely because of coronavirus.
The measure, which the Senate is expected to consider when lawmakers return to the Capitol, would reduce the fees Georgia’s electric membership corporations (EMCs) charge to let telecom providers use their utility poles to extend broadband service into unserved or underserved areas of the state. Telecom executives have complained current pole attachment rates are so high that running broadband into rural communities isn’t worth the investment.

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