Nearly half a million homes and businesses in the Peach State – close to 1 in 10 – don't have access to high-speed internet. But now there's hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public contracts heading Georgia's way, creating a "wild West" of spending and bidding and raising serious questions for officials and policy experts about whether that money will be spent effectively.

“There’s a mad scramble right now because of all this money and all these companies trying to get in the business,” said Clint Mueller, the legislative director of the Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG). “The state’s the only one that can make sure we’re spreading these dollars as far as possible.”

For the nearly one million Georgians without a reliable internet connection, mainly in the rural southern and mountainous northern regions, the need to be connected is vital. That's especially true for students, many of whom had difficulty pursuing their education virtually during the pandemic. Places like rural Crisp County, where nearly a third of the population is blacked out of the web are especially affected.

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