Windstream’s Kinetic business unit has reached a public-private partnership agreement with Georgia electric membership cooperative Sumter EMC to bring fiber broadband to 16,000 homes and businesses in rural southwest Georgia.

Windstream has become increasingly interested in public-private broadband partnerships in the last couple of years. Last year when the company announced a public-private partnership with Georgia’s Colquitt Electric Membership Cooperative, Kinetic President Jeff Small said the company was interested in more partnerships of that type.

This isn’t the first time Sumter EMC has partnered with a telco/broadband provider, either. Sumter EMC and another Georgia EMC Jefferson Energy previously formed a partnership with Pineland Telephone Cooperative to improve broadband access to underserved areas through a fiber swap arrangement.

The Kinetic Sumter EMC Deal

The Kinetic/ Sumter EMC deal calls for Kinetic to build about 1,000 miles of fiber optic cabling across 11 counties. Kinetic will attach fiber to Sumter EMC-owned utility poles.

Most of the capacity on the expanded network will be used to deliver broadband to homes and businesses across the Sumter EMC footprint. The remaining capacity will be reserved for Sumter EMC to provide backbone connectivity for the communications network supporting EMC’s power system equipment as part of the EMC’s smart grid investments.

When Telecompetitor asked Windstream for details about the network ownership structure, a Kinetic spokesperson simply said that the companies have “formal working arrangements.”

“Windstream understands that each electric cooperative is unique and works to create agreements that fit the desire of the cooperative’s operational needs while also enabling Windstream to deliver Kinetic fiber service to the customers,” the spokesperson added.

At this time, there are no plans for the companies to do co-marketing, the spokesperson said.

When the Kinetic/ Sumter EMC project is completed, 84% of the cooperative’s member-owners will have access to broadband services, up from 35%, according to a press release about the agreement.

Sumter EMC currently has 20,000 billed accounts.

“Building reliable, ultrafast internet service in rural areas requires collaboration and public-private partnerships,” said Windstream President and CEO Tony Thomas in the press release.

Thomas also noted that Windstream will be working with counties across the state to expand broadband through the Georgia Broadband Program.

Electric utilities have played an increasingly important role in broadband in Georgia since the state passed a law in 2019 to encourage utility company involvement in that area.

It’s part of a broader nationwide trend toward more telco/utility partnerships.

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