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Chamber group, officials hear from AT&T exec
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AT&T employees help customers at the Cumming store. During a recent talk, a company official told local business and government leaders the firm is prepared to meet the communication needs of Forsyth County. - photo by Autumn McBride

AT&T is prepared to continue meeting the communications needs of Forsyth County, a company leader said during a recent presentation.

Paul Chambers, Northeast Georgia District manager of external affairs, addressed members of the Cumming-Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee and elected officials during a closed meeting.

James McCoy, president and CEO of the chamber, said telecommunications companies like AT&T will continue to play a larger role in economic development efforts in the years ahead.

“While roads and gas lines will always be important, those things are now falling further down the list compared to technology infrastructure,” McCoy said.

Chambers agreed that “the world is changing” every day regarding technology.

For example, he said 30 percent of homes in the United States no longer have a “landline” telephones.

In addition, he said AT&T’s wireless data network has grown some 8,000 percent in the past four years due to the increase in wireless Internet-capable cell phones.

“That increase does lead to some issues related to coverage,” Chambers said.

While many may think those problems are solved solely by adding more cell towers, Chambers said some can also be fixed with more underground fiber.

In his talk Tuesday, he explained that towers pick up radio waves from cellular phones, but those signals are then sent to underground fiber that carries them to AT&T’s main network.

To keep up with demand in Forsyth County, Chambers said new, higher capacity fiber strands have recently been added along Atlanta and Canton highways.

Chambers also mentioned the North Georgia Network, a federal stimulus project that will add digital fiber in areas of the north Georgia mountains.

He said he is often asked if AT&T is a part of that project.

“We’re not. That will be competition for AT&T,” he said. “But that [network] won’t provide anything that doesn’t already exist in Forsyth County.”

He added that high-speed fiber strands have been run along every major road in the county and 60 percent of Forsyth residents have access to AT&T’s cable television system known as U-verse.

He said AT&T offers more services than any other communications company in the county.

“We offer landlines, Internet, video and wireless services,” he said. “That’s makes us unique in Forsyth County.” 

He noted that while AT&T may not have a huge facility in the county, it’s one of the largest employers of Forsyth residents. 

“We have 1,100 employees that live in Forsyth County,” he said. “Three-quarters of those are management positions with our wireless headquarters in Atlanta. These are not low-wage jobs we’re talking about.”

Chambers also touched on AT&T throughout Georgia.

He said it is one of the state’s top five employers, with some 25,000 workers. Statewide, the company will be adding 62 new cell tower sites over the next year.