CUMMING, GA – Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation on Friday, April 26th which removes barriers to broadband expansion in rural Georgia and allows electric membership cooperatives, such as Sawnee EMC, to “evaluate” and “consider” how they might contribute to the expansion of broadband services in Georgia.
Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) and Rep. Jay Powell (R-Camilla) championed this legislation (SB 2) which gives EMCs legal authority to provide broadband services.
“We’re grateful for the leadership of Gov. Kemp, Sen. Gooch and Rep. Powell on this critical issue and their dedication to rural Georgia,” says Michael A. Goodroe, President and CEO, Sawnee EMC. “The legislation is a good first step to meeting this un-met need and allows those EMCs in the state that can create a business case in support of this effort to begin discussions with their boards as to “how” to explore possible challenges and opportunities in their respective communities,” he adds.
Lawmakers and business leaders agree access to broadband is essential to sustained economic development and creating robust rural communities but also recognize that costs to build these fiber networks combined with rapidly changing wireless technologies create significant challenges for lesser populated areas of the state. After the Rural Electrification Administration was established in the mid-1930s, it took decades to fully plan, fund and build Georgia’s electric infrastructure. A similar cautious and thoughtful approach—including gaining critical input—will be required as EMCs considers the deployment of high speed internet service.
Consequently, individual EMCs, such as Sawnee, may consider a variety of options, if there is a viable business case to do so—including partnerships with established companies and existing providers—as they assess and consider the most prudent approach to the possible deployment of broadband in their service area.
Sawnee EMC’s President and CEO, Michael A. Goodroe, cautions that an undertaking of this magnitude will require support and involvement from a variety of participants throughout a long, deliberative process and that Sawnee currently has no plans to provide retail broadband internet service.
Georgia joins several neighboring states such as Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi that have passed legislation aimed at expanding broadband access for customers in rural areas.
Questions about broadband should be directed to Blake House, Vice President of Member Services, at Sawnee EMC.
About Sawnee EMC
Sawnee Electric Membership Corporation is an electric distribution cooperative headquartered in Cumming, Georgia. Sawnee serves electricity to approximately 180,981 accounts in seven (7) counties of greater north Georgia. Sawnee’s assets exceed $720 million, with energy sales of 3.7 billion kWh and annual revenue of $355 million. With a team of approximately 330 dedicated professionals and over 11,373 miles of distribution line, Sawnee always stands ready to meet the needs of its members/owners. SEMC strives daily to live up to their motto…
“At Sawnee EMC, We’re More Than Electricity, We’re Service”
This institution is an equal opportunity provider and employer