Daniel Frizzell, the director of engineering at Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, explains the way in which Blue Ridge Mountain EMC provides internet services to rural areas. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC is based out of Young Harris. Jenna Eason / Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Study: high speed rural internet would boost Georgia economy

Legislature has bill on tap

A study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Amazon, based on statistics and a survey of more than 5,000 small rural businesses, says that increasing digital access could add billions of dollars to the economy.

Georgia would need to Increase connectivity in rural areas, where 66 percent of rural small businesses say poor internet or cell phone connectivity negatively impacts their business, according to the report.

To take full advantage of unlocking the potential, the state would have to increase the number of people trained in digital skills and get businesses to adopt training and tools to take advantage of the growth in digital marketing, sales and business.

The state Legislature is considering House Bill 23, which would permit Georgia’s 41 electric membership corporations to offer high-speed internet service. EMCs often serve sparsely populated areas where major providers such as AT&T and Comcast haven’t necessarily built internet lines.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has been following the bill and will report on its progress.

According to the national report, one-in-five rural businesses are already digital. And nearly 20 percent of America’s rural small businesses generate at least 80 percent of their revenue by selling online products and services.

Almost 40 percent of small business owners say digital technology has allowed them to sell across state lines, and 16 percent say they are selling internationally due to their access to digital tools.

In Georgia, nearly 14  percent of surveyed businesses said they are selling internationally.

The report estimates that full high-speed internet access, with trained people and adaption, could add $3.9 billion to the state’s economy. 

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