Expanding broadband service to rural Georgia comes with varying financial challenges and operational risks will vary for every EMC. Some EMCs may already have high quality internet service providers delivering broadband in their area. Those that do explore broadband service may determine partnerships with third-party providers is the most effective way to provide high-speed internet service. For instance, some EMCs may be able to leverage excess capacity stemming from the growing investment being made in our fiber infrastructure. While this fiber was initially planned to support electric system operations for the state’s power grid, many EMCs may find it’s more prudent to work with partners to take advantage of that excess capacity to more efficiently serve rural Georgians.
It also is important to remember that, just like current broadband providers, EMCs are not obligated to offer broadband service, especially if a business case for doing so cannot be made. What works for an EMC in North Georgia may not translate into success in South Georgia, and vice versa. For instance, while EMCs in South Georgia might be able to utilize line-of-sight wireless technology as a cost-effective solution due to the region’s relatively flat terrain, the mountains of North Georgia make that a less practical option.
Each EMC will need to look to its boards, leaders and members to participate in the necessary planning to evaluate and explore the most fiscally responsible and effective ways to help their members and the communities they serve.