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Research firm conducting study for Vidalia high-speed Internet

VIDALIA — Vidalia residents may soon be able to pay the city for their Internet bill in addition to water and electricity.

SDS Research, an independent research firm, will begin contacting Vidalia residents Aug. 5 to gauge interest in high-speed Internet.

The calls are a part of a feasibility study being conducted by The Motive Group, an infrastructure planning company.

But the study may simply be a formality before construction on the project begins, Mayor Hyram Copeland said.

“We have been pursuing high-speed, fiber-optic Internet for two to three years,” Copeland said. “High-speed internet is something residents and businesses are interested in. It is going to happen.”

Nexus Systems, an Internet service provider, will pay for the study and is also interested in being the city’s Internet service provider, information technology technician Bobby Paul said.

The city plans to bundle Internet services with water and electricity, Copeland said.

“We will utilize the Internet to read electricity and water meters from Vidalia City Hall,” he said.

Copeland said he was unsure how construction would be funded, but said he is considering paying for installation of fiber optic lines with a public-private partnership with Nexus Systems.

Paul estimated the entire project would cost $8 million.

Residents shouldn’t expect to see fiber optic speeds immediately, Paul said. Instead, he said initial speeds would equal 150 megabits per second and slowly increase, eventually reaching one gigabit per second.

“We don’t want to spend taxpayer dollars and let a line hang off of a pole,” Paul said. “We would do the project in phases. The first phase of the project might cost half of a million.”

In addition to residents, Concordia Parish Economic Development director Heather Malone said the project would benefit local businesses.

“We have gotten some complaints about the Internet in business meetings,” Malone said. “Faster Internet speeds would help current businesses, but also open the city up to new forms of businesses. We can’t even tap into things like digital gaming because of our Internet speeds.”

Many Vidalia residents said they would be happy to see cheaper, faster Internet, but are happy with current services.

“I got Internet from Cable One because their speeds were really high and I like to watch Netflix a lot,” Vidalia resident Sara Nuss said. “Faster would be better, but my speed hasn’t ever been a problem.”

Vidalia resident Amy McCarthy agreed with Nuss.

“I don’t use my Internet a whole lot, but it works fine for what I use it for,” McCarthy said.

No timeline has been set for construction and feasibility study results will not be available for approximately six weeks, Motive Group representative Beth Ringley said.

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