The Northwest Georgia Regional Commission is partnering on a multimillion-dollar grant application to expand broadband access in Floyd, Chattooga, Polk, Walker and Paulding counties.

Among the benefits: faster and more reliable Internet connections for homes and businesses.

Another $4.8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for broadband was announced last week. The application deadline is March 15, with awards announced by Sept. 30.
Tentatively, NWGRC would own the network and a local fiber optic company such as Summerville-based Parker Systems LLC would manage it.

David Parker told the NWGRC at its monthly meeting Thursday that his company already has more than 80,000 miles of fiber optic cable in the region.

Parker was asked to work with the NWGRC’s telecommunications committee after the regional commission was approached with the partnership offer by Jerry Shearin, a principal in Blue Streak Cable & Telecommunications LLC and a former Paulding County commissioner.

The groundwork for the fiber optic plan was laid in 2008-2009 through a state-funded TechSmart needs-assessment done for Floyd, Chattooga, Polk and Walker counties.

Billy Croker, chairman of the NWGRC, created an oversight committee chaired by Catoosa County Commissioner Ken Marks to work with staffers and Blue Streak. Marks has scheduled the first meeting for 10 a.m. Wednesday.