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BRIEF: Georgia Lawmakers OK Electric Co-Ops to Sell Internet Service

The legislation, now on the governor’s desk, allows electric membership corporations to provide Internet service as well as power. Because EMCs already operate in rural parts of the state, they are well positioned to extend the services.

(TNS) — 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.”

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.

©2019 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.