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Another Georgia electric co-op to offer high-speed internet

April 16, 2021 GMT

SANDERSVILLE, Ga. (AP) — Another Georgia electric cooperative will work with a partner to extend broadband internet.

The Washington Electric Membership Corp. announced Friday that it will invest $52 million to reach more than 12,000 customers in Baldwin, Emanuel, Glascock, Hancock, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Warren, Washington and Wilkinson counties.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Public Service Commissioner Tricia Pridemore, both Republicans, attended the announcement Friday.

The cooperative will run fiber to its customers and Conexon of Kansas City, Missouri, will operate the service. Conexon, which is investing $2.5 million, will offer accounts to customers. Washington EMC says the network will also improve electric service and increase reliability.

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The network will be built over the next three years, with service beginning as early as spring 2022.

Georgia lawmakers gave the go-ahead for rural electric cooperatives to invest in internet service in 2019.

“The legislation is doing exactly what it was intended to do — encourage EMCs and community leaders to work together on developing innovative solutions to close the gap on the digital divide in our state,” Kemp said Friday.

Lawmakers approved Kemp’s plan to spend $20 million in the budget year ending June 30 and then another $10 million each year going forward to subsidize rural internet connections. Cities and counties will be able to apply for grants to aid Washington EMC’s buildout.