Efforts to provide needed broadband service to Georgians took a step forward when Gov. Brian Kemp and PSC Commissioner Tim Echols made an announcement at Tri-County EMC’s headquarters earlier today. Gov. Kemp announced the formation of a new broadband provider in Middle Georgia, Tri-CoGo, which will provide high-speed internet service to 22,000 homes and businesses in eight Counties: Jones, Baldwin, Putnam, Jasper, Twiggs, Wilkinson, Morgan and Bibb.
This project will include a capital investment of more than $47 million by Tri-County EMC (TCEMC) to build a fiber network that will provide enhanced reliability and operational services for TCEMC electric customers while providing excess fiber capacity that will be leased to the cooperative’s broadband affiliate, Tri-CoGo, which will provide the broadband service, pending regulatory approval.
Following participation in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase 1 Auction, Tri-CoGo was awarded approximately $1.1 million to provide Gigabit service to 2,923 unserved locations in 24 census blocks within the cooperative service area. In addition to those locations, Tri-CoGo plans to offer services to all of the more than 22,000 accounts currently receiving electric service from Tri-County EMC.
Tri-County EMC is constructing the network with the assistance of Conexon, a rural fiber engineering consultant. Conexon works exclusively with electric cooperatives and is considered one of the pioneers in the electric cooperative broadband movement. Construction of the fiber network will be complete in two years, and all TCEMC members will have access to broadband services with Tri-CoGo in the months soon thereafter, as service drops are constructed and home installations are completed. Available services will include 100 Mbps, Gigabit and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service for residential and commercial customers.
“Today’s broadband announcement by Tri-County EMC is another exciting step toward securing greater opportunities for hardworking Georgians through expanded internet access,” said Governor Kemp. “Broadband access is critical to economic growth, better educational outcomes, and access to quality healthcare. Our EMCs are critical partners in that fight, and thanks to the passage and signing of Senate Bill 2 in 2019, they are empowered to work with the communities they serve on projects like this that lessen the digital divide in rural Georgia. I’m honored to be part of this announcement and will continue working with leaders across our state to increase broadband access and ensure a brighter future for all Georgians – no matter their zip code.”
“Ensuring the citizens of our state have access to broadband service is a key part of my goal to make our state the ‘Technology Capitol of the East Coast’,” said Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan. “Today’s announcement from Tri-County EMC continues to show how our state’s EMCs can play a key role in making that happen. Expanding broadband access has been a key priority for the Senate and I am excited to see our EMCs take another step in helping close the digital divide.”
“The availability of high-speed broadband in rural Georgia is truly a game changer – affording access to telemedicine, online learning and e-commerce,” said House Speaker David Ralston. “I am proud that our House of Representatives, guided by our House Rural Development Council, has prioritized the expansion of broadband internet resulting in announcements like Tri-County EMC’s. We will continue to work with public and private sector partners to expand economic opportunity to every corner of our state.”
“Accessing high-speed broadband is incredibly important for rural businesses and families – especially in the COVID era,” said PSC Commissioner Tim Echols. “As a utility regulator and father of seven, I’ve tried to make it easier for EMCs to engage and play a role in expanding broadband and reaching unserved and underserved areas.”
“Today is truly an exciting day for our cooperative,” said Tri-County EMC CEO Ray Grinberg. “For our members and our community, today marks the beginning of a digital revolution. Regardless of location across our service territory, every member of Tri-County EMC will soon be able to receive high-speed internet.”
“I firmly believe that high-speed internet will be a catalyst for economic development, just like rural electrification,” commented Greg Mullis, Chief Operating Officer for Tri-CoGo. “Access to one hundred percent fiber, high-speed internet for every member of Tri-County EMC may certainly have the largest impact on business development and quality of life since we brought electricity to rural middle-Georgia in 1939.”
Tri-County EMC members interested in internet or phone service are encouraged to visit the newly created subsidiary’s website at connect.tri-cogo.com. Members can search by address to get detailed information about buildout schedules, simple and competitive pricing plans and to preregister for service.
In recent years, Georgia’s EMCs have been aggressively pursuing solutions to help expand broadband. Some, like Blue Ridge Mountain EMC and Habersham EMC, have created affiliates and are already providing high-speed service to members and many are exploring or have formed partnerships with broadband providers. In addition to today’s news, other EMC partnerships and projects were announced recently by Central Georgia EMC and Southern Rivers Energy, Amicalola EMC, Carroll EMC, Colquitt EMC, and Diverse Power resulting in expanded access for thousands of Georgia households and businesses.