Georgia EMCs Announce Tools for Rural Broadband Expansion at PSC

Staff Report

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

To promote the deployment of broadband in our state, Georgia’s not-for-profit, member-owned electric membership cooperatives (EMCs) filed their “Georgia Solution” with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) on Friday. The filing was part of a rate case underway at the PSC that will determine the fee paid by cable companies to attach wires and cables to EMC utility poles. Unlike other pole attachment filings elsewhere in the country that focus simply on rates, the Georgia Solution is a comprehensive, results-oriented approach that offers generous incentives to qualified broadband providers the moment they expand internet service into unserved rural Georgia. 

As part of the Georgia Solution, the EMCs “rolled out the red carpet” to cable providers new and old with two generous and unprecedented offers: the “One Buck Deal” and the “Georgia One-Touch-Make-Ready Program.”

The One Buck Deal is a financial incentive offered to any qualified broadband provider that will deliver new high-speed internet service in unserved EMC areas. Under the One Buck Deal, EMCs will forego recovering a fair share of their costs to own and maintain their utility poles from providers attaching to EMC utility poles, and instead charge these broadband providers just one dollar, per pole, per year to attach their wires and cables to the pole. Making their offer even richer, the EMCs will honor this low, introductory rate for five years for each attachment as long as the new attachments are made to bring broadband service to unserved rural EMC members and are made on a pole to which the cable provider is not already attached. Just as importantly, theOne Buck Deal ensures that investments made by rural Georgians in broadband stay in their communities.

Unserved areas will be determined using the Georgia Broadband Map, which shows the availability of broadband services to every home and business in the state, and was developed by the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative of the Department of Community Affairs, as a result of 2018 legislation. The state of Georgia defines high-speed internet service as a minimum of 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. Any home with no internet service or with internet service below this speed is considered unserved.

“EMCs are deeply committed to doing our part to solve the digital divide. The Georgia Solution is one of many ways we are working to bring together the many parties that are needed to solve this critical issue for our state,” says Dennis Chastain, president and CEO of Georgia EMC. “The brave and bold solution offered by the EMCs creates real savings for broadband providers, ensures broadband expansion for those who desperately need it, and ensures consumers’ investment in broadband expansion does not leave this state. It’s one solution to connect all of Georgia, and a true win-win-win.”

The Georgia One-Touch-Make-Ready Program addresses an issue that the cable industry has identified for years as being one of its biggest barriers to broadband deployment. The program will empower internet providers with the freedom to do simple work to prepare the EMC pole for their attachment without red tape approvals and lengthy delays. Less wait time means greater efficiency, lower costs for broadband providers, and more new broadband.

Georgia EMC’s Georgia Solution includes one statewide rate for pole attachment agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2021. The fair rate protects more than 4 million EMC member-owners, who, through their monthly electric bills, fund all the expenses of the EMC, including the poles that cable companies use, and from which cable companies derive their profits.

“EMCs are incredibly proud of the Georgia Solution. We know it can move the needle on broadband because it offers generous financial incentives for broadband expansion and addresses the very concerns that internet providers have expressed,” says Chastain. “We are excited to partner with cable companies and other internet providers to solve this problem for our members and rural Georgia - once and for all.”

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