On October 27th, 2021 Kinetic and Sumter EMC announced a working agreement to deliver fiber broadband to over 16,000 homes and businesses in Southwest Georgia. The unique collaboration means over the next four years, Kinetic will build over 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable across eleven counties.
"Building reliable, ultrafast internet service in rural areas requires collaboration and public-private partnerships," said Tony Thomas, President and CEO of Windstream. "Kinetic by Windstream will accelerate our deployment of fiber broadband throughout rural Georgia through this unique collaboration with Sumter EMC. We also are working with counties across the state to expand broadband through the Georgia Broadband Program. At Windstream, we firmly believe by working together we can make broadband a reality."
Kinetic by Windstream will attach fiber to utility poles owned by Sumter EMC. Most of the capacity of the expanded network will deliver broadband to homes and businesses across the Sumter EMC footprint, including Chattahoochee, Dougherty, Lee, Marion, Quitman, Randolph, Schley, Stewart, Sumter, Terrell, and Webster counties. The remaining capacity will be allocated to Sumter EMC to serve as the backbone for communications to the EMC's power system equipment.
"We recognized the need for broadband as a key component of education and productivity in rural Georgia many years ago and have been actively pursuing viable solutions," said Rene Smith, CEO of Sumter EMC. "There have been some success stories, but a solution that really benefitted sparsely populated areas remained elusive until now. Through this arrangement, Kinetic by Windstream will build and operate the broadband network and provide broadband services to residences and businesses."
When the project is complete, the percentage of Sumter EMC's member-owners who have access to broadband services will increase from 35 percent to 84 percent. As new funding opportunities arise, the parties hope to close the remaining gap, and will do so as rapidly as possible. Through the agreement, Sumter EMC and Kinetic will coordinate their engineering and construction activities. The installed fiber network will also enhance electric system reliability through the simultaneous implementation of high-speed fiber-optic communications as a component of Sumter EMC's ongoing smart-grid investments. The investments made by Sumter EMC are in return for power system use of fiber-optic cables, with a side benefit that the EMC is making it practical for Windstream to extend lines into very rural areas and to do so faster than would otherwise be possible.
As two utility companies serving Georgia residents for decades, Sumter EMC and Windstream share a vision and a passion for serving members in their combined service territories. By combining efforts, fiber can be installed, and broadband services can be offered to more members in rural areas sooner as well as more economically.
No, the investments made by Sumter EMC are in electric system pole line improvements that will yield long-term benefits for electric system operations. In return for the electric system investments made by Sumter EMC, the EMC will receive access to communications infrastructure that is a critical part of the smart-grid future of its electric system operations. The collective efforts of Sumter EMC and Windstream Communications, combined with funding opportunities made available by federal and state legislators for the infrastructure buildout, will not cause Sumter EMC to increase electric rates.
No, the broadband service will be directly between the member and Windstream.
Sumter EMC and Windstream are working on a tentative 4-year build plan to reach 84% of the unserved or underserved locations. As new funding opportunities arise, the parties hope to close the remaining gap, and will do so as rapidly as possible.
The sequence of construction and timing will be determined by Windstream, because they are making the investment in the fiber-optic cables and equipment. Sumter EMC will work with them to make the engineering and construction process for pole line upgrades and their fiber optic build-out happen as quickly and efficiently as possible. The investments made by Sumter EMC are in return for power system use of fiber-optic cables, with a tremendous side benefit that the EMC is making it more practical for Windstream to build fiber-optic lines faster and into more rural areas than they would otherwise.