Plains, GA – Today, Governor Brian P. Kemp applauded the recently announced collaboration between Sumter EMC and Windstream that will expand rural broadband access in southwest Georgia.
"I am committed to ensuring Georgians in every corner of the state have access to high-speed broadband," said Governor Kemp. "To help carry out this mission, the General Assembly and I have encouraged the public and private sectors to work together and create innovative solutions on behalf of hardworking Georgians. This partnership between Sumter EMC and Windstream will provide 11 counties with more opportunity and access, and highlight yet another win for rural communities across our state."
Details were made public at the historic Plains Community Center earlier today when Sumter EMC and Windstream revealed plans that will ultimately benefit 8,000 homes and businesses in Sumter EMC’s service territory. The two companies will coordinate their engineering and construction activities through a unique broadband expansion model, bringing high-speed broadband access to locations in Chattahoochee, Dougherty, Lee, Marion, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Sumter, Terrell, and Webster counties.
With previously secured funding sources for fiber-optic construction by Windstream, the availability of broadband for Sumter EMC members will increase from 35% to 84% over the next four years. The two companies will work together in the pursuit of additional funding to achieve broadband access for all Sumter EMC members and to accelerate construction activities as funding is made available. In all, Windstream will build roughly 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable across the 11 counties that Sumter EMC serves as part of this project, enabling service to an additional 8,000 households that are within these counties but outside of Sumter’s EMC footprint.
The planned projects include construction of more than $58 million in new fiber-optic infrastructure by Windstream which will be funded in part by $18 million of funds secured through the Federal Communications Commission’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF). Under terms of the agreement, Sumter EMC will work with Windstream to upgrade and share the use of common infrastructure in order to expedite build out of a broadband network that will reach unserved and underserved areas and provide smart grid communications for Sumter EMC’s electric operations. The fiber-optic network will be owned and operated by Windstream, and Sumter EMC will continue to own the existing and upgraded shared poles.
“The ability for Georgians to access high speed broadband is crucially important, particularly in the rural areas of our state," said Commissioner Jason Shaw, District 1 of the Georgia Public Service Commission. "The Public Service Commission has made expanding broadband access a top priority and I congratulate Sumter EMC and Windstream for working together to find creative ways to help connect southwest Georgia.”
“This is an exciting day for our rural member-owners. The agreements we have reached with Windstream will not only speed the extension of broadband into the communities we serve, it will also provide Sumter EMC with a smart-grid communications network that meets our strategic goals for ever-improving electric system resilience and reliability,” said Rene Smith, Sumter EMC President/CEO. “The cooperative’s Board of Directors is appreciative of the significant investments being made by Windstream in our local communities and we look forward to working with them as we continue our mission for the benefit of southwest Georgians.”
“Building reliable, ultrafast internet service in rural areas requires collaboration and public-private partnerships,” said Tony Thomas, CEO of Windstream. “Windstream will accelerate our deployment of fiber broadband throughout rural Georgia through this unique collaboration with Sumter EMC. We also are working with counties across the state to expand broadband through the Georgia Broadband Program. At Windstream, we firmly believe by working together we can make broadband a reality.”
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