Perspective: A Bold and Innovative Solution
If you’ve been reading my column on a regular basis, you know I rarely devote time here to legislative issues. However, I want to bring to your attention the Georgia Broadband Opportunity Act, which was passed by the state’s General Assembly last year.
Through this act, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) has been tasked by the legislature to decide a fair rental rate for attaching cable equipment to our power poles. This may seem like an obscure issue that’s unrelated to the expansion of broadband service to rural areas, but the cost for broadband providers to attach their cables to our poles is a small part of the equation.
In response to this act, electric cooperatives across the state, including Jackson EMC,will be seeking a rate that fairly recovers the cost to install and maintain the poles. Think about it in terms of renting space in your home. If you rent a bedroom in your house(like renting space on our poles) you would seek to rent it at a rate that fairly recovered your cost of building and maintaining that bedroom.
Just like you, EMCs want broadband service to expand in rural areas. So, as part of our solution we want to incentivize broadband providers to expand in the areas that need it most. To achieve that goal, EMCs will put forward a bold solution that rewards broadband providers that expand into unserved areas of rural Georgia. Our proposal will offer the best of both worlds for expanding broadband in Georgia: It protects EMC members with a statewide rental rate that fairly recovers the cost of the poles but also offers tremendous incentives to broadband companies to expand in unserved areas of the state.
Here’s how the proposed EMC solution would work: Throughout the state of Georgia,broadband providers will pay EMCs a rental rate based on one statewide formula, which is a fair cost recovery for the cooperative’s members who have paid to acquire, install and maintain the pole infrastructure. In unserved areas, EMCs would offer a deep discount for attaching to our poles. We call it the “One Buck Deal” and it means any new attachments to power poles that broadband providers use to deliver internet in unserved communities will be charged just $1 to attach to our poles. And we would fix that annual fee at $1 for five years to allow their expansion plans to fully develop.
In addition, we are proposing the “Georgia One Touch Make Ready” program to empower broadband providers to prepare EMC poles without delay for their equipment.These incentives will make Georgia a national leader and show that EMCs are pursuing every feasible path to expanding broadband availability for rural Georgians without raising your electric rates.
While Jackson EMC doesn’t have plans to offer broadband service directly, we continue to explore meaningful partnerships with broadband providers and believe in doing everything we can to support the efforts to provide reliable internet service in rural areas of our state. Our plan will protect those Georgians already receiving broadband service while rolling out the red carpet to welcome broadband expansion in our state.We know the PSC wants to do what’s best for you and your fellow Georgians, so we’re championing this important effort. It’s an important issue, and I’d encourage you to learn more in this issue of JEMCO News.