Efforts to provide needed high-speed internet service to Georgians took a step forward when Gov. Brian Kemp and PSC Commissioner Tim Echols assisted Tri-County EMC (Gray, GA) in making an important announcement. Governor 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 including Baldwin, Bibb, Jasper, Jones, Morgan, Putnam, Twiggs and Wilkinson.
“Today’s broadband announcement by Tri-County EMC is another exciting step toward securing greater opportunities for hardworking Georgians through expanded internet access,” said Gov. 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.”
The project will include a capital investment of more than $47 million by Tri-County EMC to build a fiber network that will provide enhanced reliability and operational services for its 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.
“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.”
“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.”
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. Fiber construction is expected to begin by May 2021 and service to service to the first zone of customers will begin by late summer. Construction of the fiber network will be complete in two years, and all Tri-County EMC members should have access to internet services with Tri-CoGo within four years, as service drops are constructed. Available services will include 100 Mbps, Gigabit and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephone service for residential and commercial customers.
The subsidiary was awarded approximately $1.1 million in the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF) Phase 1 Auction in late 2020 to provide gigabit service to 2,923 unserved locations within the cooperative service area.
“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 preregister for service.