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Initiative to expand high-speed internet access in rural Georgia

Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday announced a public-private partnership to connect more rural homes.

ATLANTA — More than 12,000 homes and businesses in rural Georgia will get new high-speed internet access, according to Gov. Brian Kemp, under an initiative announced on Friday.

The governor announced that Washington EMC, a utility that operates in middle Georgia, and Conexon Connect, an organization that specializes in rural high-speed internet service, would be partnering with the state on the initiative.

It will target Baldwin, Emanuel, Glascock, Hancock, Jefferson, Johnson, Laurens, Warren, Washington and Wilkinson counties in middle Georgia.

RELATED: Broadband expansion gives Gov. Kemp rural toehold

The governor said Washington EMC would be investing $52 million into the initiative, with Conexon Connect contributing $2.5 million.

They will partner to "design and build a 3,000-mile fiber network that will serve two strategic purposes: provide improved electric service and increased reliability through smart grid capabilities, and provide high-speed internet access to all 12,200 WEMC members within the next three years, beginning as early as first quarter 2022," the governor's office said in a release.

According to the governor's office, Washington EMC will own the fiber network and "lease excess capacity to Conexon Connect, which has agreed to serve every EMC member with fiber-to-the-home internet speeds up to 1 Gigabit per second."

“The announcement we are making today will have a real impact on hard-working Georgians by providing new job opportunities, improved education tools, and access to telemedicine,” Gov. Kemp said in a statement. “This is yet another great result of the General Assembly working with my office to pass and sign Senate Bill 2 into law in 2019, which authorized EMCs to provide broadband service. The legislation is doing exactly what it was intended to do: encourage EMCs and community leaders to work together on developing creative solutions to close the gap on the digital divide in our state.”

The governor has made rural economic development a priority of his administration, with a number of similar internet access announcements made in the last few years.