Troy Cable has landed two high-speed connectivity grants expected to relieve the Wiregrass area’s well-documented broadband connectivity woes.
The largest grant, worth $575,115, addresses areas near Cottonwood, Gordon, Webb, and Columbia in Houston County, and Slocomb, Coffee Springs, Geneva and Samson in Geneva County. A second grant worth $348,885 addresses areas in Crenshaw, Pike and northeastern Coffee counties.
The larger project will cover 79 miles and provide high-speed internet connectivity to 878 residences and 76 businesses, while the smaller initiative addresses an additional 52 miles, 405 households and 33 businesses.
Troy Cable general manager Jake Cowen said his company will have two years to complete the project once the grant paperwork is finalized in a few weeks. Cowen added a partnership with Wiregrass Electric Cooperative, which is allowing Troy Cable to install cables on its poles, supplemented his company’s grant application.
The grants come from the state’s Broadband Accessibility Fund. Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva) expressed elation about the announcement, since he played a major role in writing the legislation that created the Fund in 2018. The state originally set aside $7.5 million per year for broadband internet access expansion, but recently increased it to $20 million per year with some revised legislation.
“That shows the commitment that the Legislature has to broadband access. It’s an essential service,” Chesteen said. “This is just the start. We have a long way to go.”
Cowen said his company considers several factors to determine where its next broadband expansion project will be, including how close an area is to Troy Cable’s existing lines. State laws also limit where grant funding can be used, including prohibitions against projects in cities with more than 25,000 residents and in areas where a high-speed internet provider already exists.
Only 29 percent of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative customers who recently took a speed test experienced the federal definition of broadband download speed, which is 25 megabytes per second of download speed and 3 megabytes per second of upload speed.
The state defines broadband speeds as 10Mbps/1Mbps, though Chesteen said legislators will eventually change that to match the federal definition. Troy Cable fared well in the speed test as 95 percent of its customers registered at least 10Mbps of download speed and 98 percent registered at least 1Mbps of upload speed.