Electric cooperatives in Georgia have proposed policies aimed at spurring rural broadband deployments. The cooperatives call the proposed policies the Georgia Solution.
Although some Georgia electric cooperatives have proposed to build broadband networks in the rural communities they serve, those deployments are not the focus of the Georgia Solution. Instead, the solution is aimed at encouraging rural broadband deployments by cable companies and other providers.
Electric cooperatives are owned by the members who purchase services from the company. Some of these communities have little or no access to high-speed broadband and are clamoring for it – and the member owner/customers aren’t particular about which company provides the broadband service.
The Georgia Solution was filed with the Georgia Public Service Commission as part of a rate case underway at the commission that involves the fee that cable companies pay to connect to the electric cooperatives’ utility poles.
There are two key parts to the Georgia Solution — 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 electric cooperative service areas lacking broadband. The incentive calls for the broadband providers to pay the electric cooperatives just one dollar per pole per year for five years to attach new wires as long as the new attachments are to support broadband service to those unserved areas.
The Georgia One-Touch-Make-Ready program would allow broadband providers to do simple work to an electric cooperative’s pole in preparation for attaching wires to that pole “without red tape approvals and lengthy delays,” according to a press release from Georgia EMC, an association representing Georgia electric cooperatives.
The Georgia Solution includes one statewide rate for pole attachment agreements entered into on or after July 1, 2021.
Georgia electric cooperatives are “deeply committed to doing our part to solve the digital divide,” said Dennis Chastain, president and CEO of Georgia EMC, in the press release about the electric cooperative Georgia Solution. “The brave and bold solution offered by the EMCs creates real savings for broadband providers.”