This Fall, the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) will determine a critical cost to provide high-speed broadband to communities across Georgia. The PSC will decide the rate that broadband companies will be charged to attach to utility poles owned by electric membership corporations (EMCs). The PSC has the opportunity to set a cost-based formula that has the potential to unleash millions of private broadband investment in rural communities across Georgia.

Broadband providers attaching to existing utility poles in order to bring access to unserved communities is one of the most effective ways to expand the service. Creating an additional network of utility poles would be a waste of funds that would raise the cost for providers and for consumers.

The decision was given to the PSC by the Georgia Broadband Opportunity Act (HB 244). Passed by the Georgia Senate by a wide margin back in June and signed by Governor Brian Kemp in August of this year, the new law has the goal of expanding high-speed broadband access to unserved rural communities.

In a recent study by Americans for Tax Reform, making utility pole attachments less costly and complicated was listed as one of the six ways states can promote private sector investment in broadband. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) already governs the rates and fees providers pay to attach to poles, but this excludes poles owned by municipalities or telephone and electric cooperatives. This is where the Georgia Broadband Opportunity Act comes into play. Before HB 244, there was no governing body to set fair rates for broadband providers to attach to the EMC’s utility poles and effectively expand high-speed broadband to rural communities.

In December, the Georgia Public Service Commission will determine the rate at which broadband will be able to be expanded into rural communities and the cost that consumers will be charged for the service which they desperately need.