JASPER, Ga.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Efforts to provide broadband in unserved areas of Georgia have taken another big step forward with a joint announcement in Jasper today of a new partnership between Amicalola EMC and Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC). The companies are working to provide greater access to high-speed internet in their shared North Georgia service areas that include portions of Cherokee, Dawson, Lumpkin and Pickens counties.
Details of the partnership were made public before an audience that included Georgia Senate Majority Whip Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), long a champion of rural broadband expansion, House Rural Development Caucus Co-Chair Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) and other elected officials and business leaders.
Terms of the agreement call for Amicalola EMC to invest $6.5-to-7 million to add more than 250 miles of high-speed connectivity to ETC’s network, providing broadband access to approximately 6,000 customers. The expansion will include 220 new miles of broadband lines, completing a 450-to-500-mile fiber optic ring connecting the electric co-op’s substations and switches. ETC will add more than 250 miles of new fiber to its network, which will accommodate broadband growth as consumer demand in the region increases.
“I want to applaud Amicalola EMC and ETC on the formation of this exciting broadband partnership and their continued focus on making life better for the residents of North Georgia,” said Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), whose district encompasses areas that the partnership intends to serve.
“This project demonstrates how companies can come together for the benefit of their customers and it’s wonderful to see two neighbors working together to provide our area with expanded broadband service that will create better economic opportunities, improve access to education, and provide an enhanced quality of life,” Ralston concluded.
"As the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 2, it was my intent for the state to give our EMCs the legal authority to be a part of solving Georgia's digital divide. The partnership announced today between Amicalola EMC and ETC is a great example of what our bill was intended to do - give our state’s EMCs the freedom to decide what solution works best in their communities," Gooch remarked.
“It is a win-win for our members,” said Todd Payne, CEO of Amicalola EMC. “We know that a lack of adequate internet access places a hardship on rural areas. We are excited about working with ETC to help bridge that broadband divide, while at the same time improving reliability for our members. We’ve worked on joint projects for many years, and we are happy to partner once again with a trusted and reliable provider like ETC.”
“We are very excited and humbled that Amicalola EMC chose to move forward with us on this project,” said ETC President Jason Smith. “We look forward to providing them with a state-of-the-art network for their internal needs, while at the same time, providing gigabit fiber optic broadband service to all the homes and businesses along the new routes.”
In recent years, Georgia 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 from Amicalola EMC and ETC, other EMC partnerships and projects were announced earlier this year by Carroll EMC, Colquitt EMC and Diverse Power to expand access for thousands of Georgia households.
“Inspired by the building momentum among electric co-ops, other EMCs are negotiating with providers in hopes of announcing partnership agreements of their own in the near future,” said Dennis Chastain, president of Georgia EMC, the trade association representing the state’s 41 electric cooperatives.
About Amicalola EMC:
Amicalola EMC is a not-for-profit electric cooperative serving over 50,000 locations in north Georgia in portions of Bartow, Cherokee, Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Gordon, Lumpkin, Murray and Pickens counties. Founded in 1940, Amicalola EMC has provided electricity and related services to north Georgia for 80 years.
About Ellijay Telephone Company:
Established in 1903 as Ellijay Telephone Company (ETC), today ETC is a diversified communications company providing internet, telephone, cable television and security services. ETC serves residents and businesses in north Georgia and Tennessee. ETC actively evaluates opportunities to expand broadband in and around its service area. Currently, ETC has 2,708 miles of copper lines, 2,010 miles of coax cable and 652 miles of high-speed fiber.
About Georgia EMC:
Georgia EMC is the statewide trade association representing the state's 41 electric cooperatives, Oglethorpe Power Corp., Georgia Transmission Corp. and Georgia System Operations Corp. Collectively, Georgia's customer-owned co-ops provide electricity and related services to 4.4 million people, nearly half of Georgia's population, across 73 percent of the state's land area. To learn more, visit www.georgiaemc.com and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.