Pineland Telephone Cooperative is known for providing Fiber-to-the-Home (FTTH) services in southeast Georgia’s rural areas between Savannah, Augusta, and Macon. Now the co-op’s subsidiary Pineland Communications is expanding south and west into Americus, where they plan to provide fiber connectivity to local businesses.
Partnering for Pineland
In January, Pineland began deploying fiber to the delight of potential commercial subscribers. The project should start offering gigabit Internet access, voice, security, and computer services to local businesses this fall. Pineland is considering expanding to residential connections in Americus and Sumter County in the future. Pineland invested $2 million toward the project and local donors also contributed.
The project was spearheaded by the One Sumter Economic Development Foundation and began with a feasibility study three years ago. In August 2018, when the Foundation and Pineland announced the project, Rene Smith from the Foundation told WGXA:
"For our businesses, it means an opportunity to access high speed data -- which we see as vital for business success as well as education for our young people in this community. We feel like it's vital for our future."
In addition to the feasibility study from the Foundation, the local hospital authority also contributed by selling property for the central office to Pineland at market value. Sumter Electric Membership Corporation, Georgia Electric Membership Corporation, Georgia System Operations Corporation, and Georgia Transmission Corporation all assisted with the project. As a result of the efforts of all the entities involved, Americus can market itself to potential new employers as Gig-Certified.
Coming to Americus
The small city is home to businesses that need high-speed options and reliability that only fiber can provide. Americus is somewhat geographically removed, however, from larger cities where big corporate providers are more inclined to offer it. As Executive Director of One Sumter Mary Beth Bass described in an interview with WRBL, larger employers were finding ways to get the connectivity they needed, but the cost was high.
Pineland’s entrance into the community will provide much needed competition to lower prices. With an office in town, it’s also likely that potential service calls will be resolved quicker. Customer service may also reflect the improvements that accompany Internet access from local providers.
The co-operative offers additional services that commercial subscribers may want. While Internet access, voice, and data are standard fare, Pineland also maintains security services and computer support. Local businesses that may not keep IT people on staff or who want fire and theft monitoring at their businesses will be able to contract with Pineland.
Future Co-Op FTTH in Americus?
Pineland serves an area of more than 1,300 square miles, encompassing nine counties in the southeast area of the state. Their headquarters located in Metter are about 150 miles and approximately six counties east of Americus, but the project will give the co-op an opportunity to chart new territory.
While current plans are for commercial subscribers only, Americus community leaders hope the project will lead to residential service. Mediacom and AT&T offer cable and DSL Internet access in the community, but rates are high compared to more urban locations. Last August, State Senator Greg Kirk told WRBL:
"You've got to get that Internet to the last mile in all of Georgia, so that kids can study when they are at home…there's so much that's happening today on the Internet, if you're not able to connect or have a good connection, it really hinders you."