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EMCs eye broadband legislation

High speed internet service is often impossible to acquire in rural – and some municipal – areas and the Georgia legislature is considering bills to allow the state’s EMCs to provide such services. This would require granting cooperatives statutory authority to provide broadband services and both the state house and senate are pushing through bills to address the need but the language in the house and senate versions are vastly different. Senate Bill 2 is most likely to pass both the house and senate after compromises but there has been no assurance that Gov. Brian Kemp would sign such a bill. Georgians in rural areas most often have access only to slow DSL service provided along old, inferior telephone lines or satellite services that are not up to today’s high speeds and can be taken down quickly by rain and other weather events. Should the legislation pass and be signed into law, it is not a given EMCs would react immediately despite the glaring need. Building fibre networks to match up with rapidly changing wireless technologies is a vast challenge, according to Erin Cook of Southern Rivers Energy. ’Simply put, the competitive telecommunications marketplace is substantially different from the business of providing electricity. Cooperatives cannot provide a quick fix but we are committed to working with all stakeholders and our elected leaders in Washington and Atlanta in ongoing efforts to bridge the digital divide in rural Georgia,’ Cook said. The legislative picture with regard to rural broadband should clear considerably this week, Cook added.

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