NGEMC often receives questions from members about providing internet and broadband service. Rural America’s access to high speed telecommunications in today’s world is much like the need for electricity in the 1930s-40s. In the early 20th century, cooperatives were formed to bring electric power to rural homes, farms and businesses, putting them on equal footing with their city counterparts.
Now in the 21st century, some rural communities lack high speed broadband that their city neighbors enjoy. While many electric cooperatives have the infrastructure and systems needed to offer this service, they still must clear challenging financial, legal and organizational hurdles.
NGEMC and other cooperatives are working with state and federal representatives to help expand access to broadband in rural areas. Results of legislative efforts in 2018 include:
- USDA’s $600 Million ReConnect Pilot Program
- Georgia’s implementation of the Achieving Connectivity Everywhere (ACE) Act,
- The position of Executive Director of Rural Broadband to lead the State of Georgia’s efforts.
In the 2019 session of the General Assembly, Georgia legislators are considering House Bill 23 and Senate Bill 2 that remove legal uncertainty, authorizing EMCs to provide broadband services.
As a member of the community who relies on broadband and internet service, you can help ensure this issue remains a top priority:
- Read this informative article about rural broadband expansion that was featured in the January 2019 edition of Georgia Magazine.
- Encourage your lawmakers to vote YES on Rural Broadband- HB 23! Take action NOW by sending your Representative a message at this link: https://action.georgiaemc.com/actionalerts/
- Take a few minutes to email your elected officials, let them know your concerns and ask for their help. Be sure to include this link to the Georgia Magazine story: http://bit.ly/rbb20
- Engage your neighbors/neighborhood associations and as many others similarly affected in your area as time allows.
- Use social media to spread the word.
- Contact your local Chambers of Commerce and business leaders.
Bridging the digital divide in rural Georgia will take time, persistence, patience, and most importantly, funding. Decision-makers at all levels of government need to hear from their constituents on a consistent basis until the job is done.