14
January
2021
|
08:35 AM
America/New_York

Perspective: A Brighter Future for Broadband Partnerships

It’s time to celebrate the future of broadband expansion in rural Georgia.

Last month, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to support a proposal that offers incentives to expand broadband in rural areas of our state. With the PSC’s approval, broadband providers will have access to EMC utility poles in rural, unserved areas for new attachments for $1, per pole, per year. This important incentive, called the “One Buck Deal,” means a brighter future for broadband access as we partner with broadband providers to bring this much-needed service to rural areas.

Equally important, the PSC’s good decision protected more than 4 million EMC member-owners from the possibility of an energy rate increase that could have resulted from other proposals that were under consideration.

I want to thank the PSC for choosing a unique solution for Georgia that balances the need for broadband and protects the investment co-op members have made in the infrastructure of our electric distribution system. Commissioners Chuck Eaton, Tim Echols, Lauren “Bubba” McDonald Jr., Tricia Pridemore and Jason Shaw, along with the staff of the PSC, worked hard on this important issue and rendered a unanimous 5-0 decision. Their support will lower costs for broadband providers to deploy in unserved areas, and streamline the process for broadband expansion. 

The PSC’s decision carries out the intent of “The Georgia Broadband Opportunity Act,” legislation passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2020. With the passage of this bill, the legislature identified the PSC and their staff as experts on the issue of utility regulation, infrastructure and rates. Legislators entrusted the PSC with the monumental task to research, study and find a solution that would protect energy consumers from a rate increase, but encourage more broadband partnerships across the state.

The five commissioners embraced that legislative directive and their hard work is worth championing. As broadband is expanded in rural Georgia, those communities will have better opportunities to provide reliable internet service for schools, businesses and residents. With this vote, the PSC gives broadband providers access to utility infrastructure in unserved areas for next-to-nothing for six years in the areas were Georgians need it most. The PSC also protected rental rates in areas that already have broadband access, meaning hard-working co-op members will not face a potential rate increase. This was truly a win-win solution that was adopted for Georgia. 

We’ve rolled out the red carpet to welcome broadband expansion in our state. With the support of the PSC, electric cooperatives in Georgia can now develop meaningful partnerships with broadband providers that connect unserved areas. We’re excited about the opportunities we will have in the future to incentivize broadband expansion and build partnerships that help our members.

Have a question about expanding broadband in rural Georgia? Email me at chip@jacksonemc.com.