In studying the role of municipalities in broadband infrastructure deployment, it is important to remember that municipalities act with a public motive and not a profit motive. Municipalities invest in schools, roads, hospitals, senior centers, marinas, airports, and convention centers, all assets that positively differentiate one community from another. In those areas, direct investment by municipalities is accepted and indeed often encouraged, even though private firms can (and do) build private schools, hospitals, health clubs, marinas, and conference centers that coexist with municipal infrastructure.
Electric Coops Natural Choice for Expanding Rural Internet Access
“The electric co-ops represent possibly the greatest potential for expansion of really good infrastructure in rural America,” [Todd] Pealock said, explaining how it’s a natural fit for co-ops to be infrastructure providers.
“It’s very synergistic for our linemen to hang cable, to lift the hardware up,” Pealock said. “The splicing is very natural for them.”
Todd Pealock is CEO of Habersham Electric Membership Corporation (EMC), and chairman of the board of North Georgia Network. In a recent article in the Electric Co-op Today news page, Pealock described how electric coops have a natural affinity for bringing broadband to rural America. We brought you a similar news story from Missouri earlier this year. Electric coops are partnering with the public sector in a range of projects across the country.
The North Georgia Network project is funded primarily with a $42 million stimulus grant and state grants contributed to building the 260-mile backbone. Another 800 miles of middle and last mile installation was completed on November 30, 2012.
The project already connects schools, government, hospitals, higher ed, and other community anchor institutions across an eight county area. Over 2,000 homes are connected to the open access network. Businesses also trust their broadband needs to the network, intended to spur economic development in the region. In addition to Habersham EMC, Blue Ridge Mountain EMC is also a partner.
“It’s been a natural magnet of interest to the business community,” Pealock said. “I think they see this as tremendous infrastructure.”
Because they are cooperatives, owned by the customers, these organization are accountable to communities in ways that absentee-owned companies like Windstream, Frontier, and others are not.