Georgia utility companies have been pursuing opportunities to deliver broadband since the state passed legislation in April 2019 to encourage utility companies to provide broadband services.

The latest example comes from Diverse Power Inc. and its internet affiliate Kudzu Networks, who have filed documents with the state public utilities commission regarding the purchase of fixed wireless broadband provider South Georgia Regional Information Technology Authority (SGRITA). Diverse/Kudzu and SGRITA operate in rural areas of the state and serve some of the same counties.

Diverse/Kudzu did not immediately reply to an email from Telecompetitor asking whether plans for SGRITA included upgrading current broadband service, which according to the SGRITA website, supports service at speeds of 2 Mbps or 5 Mbps using fixed LTE.

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“Our board of directors, who live and work in rural communities, thought it important enough to step up and play a role in providing what is becoming an essential service for our members and communities to remain competitive and vital in the 21st century,” said Diverse Power President and CEO Wayne Livingston in a press release from Georgia EMC, an association that represents Georgia’s 41 electric cooperatives.

Georgia Utility Company Broadband
The Georgia EMC press release cites other Georgia utility company broadband initiatives since the passing of the state’s SB 2 legislation:

  • Electric membership cooperatives led or supported three of seven applications for rural broadband funding in the state in the USDA ReConnect pilot program.
  • Jefferson Energy in Wrens and Sumter EMC in Americus formed partnerships with Pineland Telephone Co-op to improve broadband access to underserved areas through a fiber swap arrangement.
  • Blue Ridge Mountain EMC in Young Harris currently serves 8,700 broadband consumers and recently announced plans to add approximately 15-20% more in 2020.
  • Habersham EMC in Clarkesville has about 4,900 broadband subscribers and expects to increase broadband deployment 20% by year-end. The company also has set a goal of increasing subscriber count 100% by 2023.
  • Altamaha EMC in Lyons and “at least one other EMC as a principal partner with an applicant” plan to submit broadband funding applications in the second round of the ReConnect program.

Electric cooperative broadband is on the rise nationwide as more states have passed laws encouraging the utility companies to offer broadband. Rural utility companies were some of the biggest winners in the 2018 Connect America Fund CAF II auction, which awarded $1.4 billion over 10 years in rural broadband funding. The electric utilities also are likely to be major participants in the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) auction, a rural broadband funding auction scheduled to start in October.

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