CALHOUN, Ga. -- Crews in Georgia are making progress on a fiber network the contractor says could allow surgeons in Nashville or Houston to operate on patients in Catoosa or Whitfield counties.
Last week, Ken Carlton, with Parker FiberNet in Summerville, Ga., told members of the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission that the network was "moving ahead pretty rapidly."
They've laid 45 miles of "ductwork" in Floyd and Polk counties that will house the fiber once it is installed, he said. Crews initially planned to run 182 miles of fiber, but now believe they'll be able to lay 250 miles with the funds and time frame allotted, he said.
The project is funded with private and public money, but terms of the $21 million federal grant being used on the network require the work to be finished by the summer of 2013. "Literally, we'll have the same speeds or better of any place in America," Carlton said.
The network will hook into EPB's fiber-optic network in Chattanooga, which is regarded as the fastest in the nation.
"We're going to really have something. What do we do with it?" he asked the officials.
After the meeting, local officials said they see it as a major recruiting tool for high-tech companies, medical centers and computerized manufacturing. "To be able to offer that would be a great, great thing," said Fort Oglethorpe Councilman Louis Hamm, a member of the commission.
The health care community will also benefit, according to Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters.
When new clinics have opened in the county, they have located only in spots that have access to high-speed Internet, he said, and faster connections would allow them to do even more.
"It's a big deal in rural medicine," Winters said.
Carlton said the technology would allow world-class surgeons around the country to operate robotic surgery equipment at hospitals in Northwest Georgia.
State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, says access to fiber lines comes up with companies he recruits through the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority.
"Most developing manufacturers are now going to that," he said.