8/22/18 - Young Harris - Daniel Frizzell, the director of engineering at Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, left, explains the way in which Blue Ridge Mountain EMC provides internet services to rural areas with Jeremy Nelms, manager of Blue Ridge Mountain EMC, listening on Wednesday, August 22. Blue Ridge Mountain EMC is based out of Young Harris, Georgia. Jenna Eason / Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com
Photo: Jenna Eason/Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com
Photo: Jenna Eason/Jenna.Eason@coxinc.com

Georgia Legislature allows EMCs to sell rural internet service

A bill approved by the Georgia General Assembly on Tuesday allows electric membership corporations to sell internet service along with power.

The legislation, Senate Bill 2, is meant to expand the availability of internet access in rural areas that currently lack fast online services. The House passed the bill 160-0, and it now advances to Gov. Brian Kemp for his signature.

State legislators from rural areas have said internet availability is essential to business growth, educational opportunities and healthcare services.

“This authorizes one of the main players in rural Georgia to provide a service that they're not legally authorized to provide now,” said House Rules Chairman Jay Powell, a Republican from Camilla. “We're trying to break down the barriers that prevent services from being provided.”

Live: Use AJC tracker to follow Georgia bills

Photos: Sine Die at the Georgia legislature

Electricity cooperatives already provide power to 4.5 million customers, many of them outside metropolitan areas where broadband service is a given.

The General Assembly previously passed a separate measure, Senate Bill 17, that allows telephone cooperatives to offer internet services.

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