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a 50/50 grant and loan and launched a feasibility study. The feasibility study concluded that with this grant and loan, Altamaha EMC could develop broadband and make it a sustainable business and service apart from the electric cooperative.
“It has taken a long time to develop the paperwork and planning as necessary for the grant and loan,” Proctor stated. “In that time, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed funding for rural areas seeking to bring broadband to homes and businesses through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund (RDOF); so we were able to gain that as well.”
Altamaha EMC representatives and state legislators attending the October 29 event echoed Proctor’s sentiments that the development has been a long time coming. Altamaha EMC Assistant Manager George McLendon said, “Since Senate Bill 2 was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp back in 2019, Altamaha EMC has been planning for this day. We are finally answering the call to provide a solution for the broadband challenges in our rural area.” He continued, “This is truly a turning point in the history of Altamaha EMC. Back in 1936, Altamaha EMC was chartered because a group of forwardthinking citizens recognized the need for electric services to be extended to rural areas in Southeast Georgia. McLendon explained that Altamaha EMC’s Board of Directors and partners are faced with a challenge of providing broadband to those same rural areas as those who came before them sought to serve. He also stated that the COVID pandemic defined the divide between the rural areas and more urban areas where reliable high-speed Internet is available, making it crucial to develop a solution for this lack of connectivity.
“The growth and future of business in rural Georgia depends on access to dependable Internet services,” he concluded.
District 1 Georgia Public Service Commissioner Jason Shaw noted, “Broadband is the number one issue we face in rural America. The Public Service Commission is working on this broadband issue every day, just like everyone else, even though it is not something we regulate. It has given us the opportunity to work with so many of our friends around the state in the EMC world on something that is vital to our citizens in rural Georgia.”
Shaw referenced his personal ties to the broadband issue, explaining that living on a farm affected his children negatively when the pandemic arose because virtual learning was a struggle. “There is no reason that people like us in rural Georgia shouldn’t have the advantage that people in the towns and cities have with Internet. It’s not just economic development like it used to be. Now it’s so much more than that because it is a quality of life issue,” he told the attendees. “You have to have Internet to do anything these days.”
Shaw concluded, “Years from now we’ll be discussing how we wouldn’t be where we are today if the EMC had not done this.”
He added, “No matter the technology developed, there is nothing to replace fiber connectivity to move data and connect houses and businesses. This is cutting– edge technology, Internet as fast as possible, that will be right here, and it’s because of all the people that have taken risks and chances to provide their citizens with everything they can.”
Described as being a “friend and supporter of Altamaha EMC,” Georgia District 19 Senator Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia, addressed the attendees about the significance of broadband development in the history of the area.
“We are no longer planting trees whose shade we will never walk under; this service moves so fast, in the near future we will reap the benefits of these decisions. The reason leaders have worked so hard to accomplish this is because of the unified desire for the area.”
Concluding his remarks on the development of broadband for the area, Tillery explained that the future is still on the minds of all leaders involved in this decision. “Your leaders are not stopping at merely developing the service. They are already planning the future and the next phases and steps of this development.”
Altamaha EMC General Manager Romanous Dotson closed the announcement ceremony by sharing his gratitude to all involved with this development. “Thank you all for your help and support of Altamaha EMC, and we look forward to continuing to serve our area in the best ways we can.”