Electric Member Cooperatives, (EMC’s) willing to expand broadband services into underserved regions of Georgia, will benefit from a lower cost of doing business, reports the Moultrie Observer. Passed unanimously by legislators, HB 244 includes provisions to entice companies to extend their services to parts of the state that currently lack adequate digital resources.
The state Public Service Commission (PSC) announced that rates for the attachment of broadband technology to utility poles will increase in areas already served by broadband. However, starting on July 1, the EMC’s will only charge telecom providers $1 for pole attachments in underserved areas. The “One Buck Deal” is part of Georgia’s plan to address the digital divide.
“With today’s vote, the Georgia PSC is giving broadband providers access to utility infrastructure at a cost of next-to-nothing in the locations where Georgia needs broadband the most,” Georgia EMC President/CEO Dennis Chastain told the Observer. “With today’s decision, EMCs are poised and ready to partner with broadband providers across the state to help them expand into our rural service territories.”
To put things in perspective, pole attachments currently cost providers approximately $20 per pole. While the $1 pole fee is meant to attract a positive response, providers are likely to be less pleased by the increase in pole fees in sufficiently served areas. HB 244 stipulates that fees for these poles will be $27.71 per pole per year.
The Georgia Cable Association does not support the two tier rating, according to the Observer, issuing a statement reading, “Failing to set reasonable pole attachment rates, terms and conditions will increase the overall cost of broadband deployment, and discourage tens of millions of dollars in private investment. That’s a disappointment for every Georgia community that needs access to broadband.” The association also speculated that higher fees would put Georgia at a disadvantage with providers if neighboring states have better deals.
“As someone who lives in unserved rural Georgia,” said Commissioner Jason Shaw, “I see, first hand, children who must travel long distances to find sufficient WiFi just to finish their homework. I hope providers will take advantage of this $1 deal to push broadband into rural areas.”