Romeo Reyes, president of the Satilla Rural Electric Membership Corporation (REMC), announced on Tuesday, May 25, that they are partnering with internet service provider Conexon Connect to deliver a world-class fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) network and access to Gigabit-speed broadband internet. A four-to-five-year build timeline is in place, but the first customers could be connected as early as the first quarter of 2022. As many as 57,000 homes and businesses in nine counties will be able to use this service - 100 percent of the members of Satilla REMC. The nine counties include Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Brantley, Coffee, Jeff Davis, Pierce, Ware, and Wayne. Electric bills will not increase to pay to construct the service; the two partnering companies are investing $150 million to pay for this project.
It may not be obvious, but the project is already underway. The partners are designing and mapping the network, meaning they are ironing out the path the fiber will take and being certain that the footprint follows a logical and efficient path along the electric infrastructure and nearby communities. To keep up with the progress of the project, follow the Satilla REMC Facebook and Conexon Connect Facebook for the latest information. Actual fiber installation will follow several weeks after they finish the planning stage, if weather and other circumstances permit.
Fiber-optic systems are made up of tiny strands of glass that carry data using light waves, resulting in faster internet speeds and better reliability than traditional copper lines. Most internet providers use fiber in their systems but use copper lines for the final connections to the home, resulting in slower speeds. Satilla REMC, Conexon, and fellow cooperatives believe 100 percent that FTTH is the best, most sustainable communications choice. With the FTTH service, they can offer “symmetrical” speeds, meaning you’ll enjoy the same high speeds whether uploading or downloading.
Details about billing and subscribing for service are currently being finalized and will be released later. However, they will offer a package with a minimum of 100 megabits per second upload and download speeds for $49.95 a month. Another package will offer a maximum of 1,000 Mbps per second upload and download speeds for $79.95 a month. Managed Wi-Fi services will be included for an additional $4.95 a month for either package. There will be no data caps or bandwidth throttling with this service.
Reyes said, “Back in 1937, Satilla REMC saw a need for electricity in rural areas and set out immediately to fill that need. Now, eighty-four years later, we see another desperate need—the need for high-speed internet, and we along with our partner Conexon Connect are already working to fill that need.”
Jason Shaw of the Georgia Public Service Commission said that it’s a great day for rural Georgia. Lightening-speed internet service is on its way; it will greatly improve the quality of life in the nine counties served by Satilla REMC.
Bubba McDonald, also of the PSC, pointed out that Satilla REMC already has the poles up and functional. It’s a matter now of connecting those poles with the proper equipment.
COVID taught the world many hard lessons during the past year, including the fact that fast reliable internet has become a necessity in this digital world in order to among other things, conduct business from home, to provide online education, and to allow farmers to get their crops to market. The people who live in the middle of nowhere have the same needs for internet as the people who live in Atlanta.
Governor Kemp too is excited about this project. He said, “The announcement today will have a significant impact on hard-working Georgians by providing new job opportunities, improved education tools, and access to telemedicine. I’m glad to see Satilla REMC and Conexon Connect investing in the lives of South Georgians by ensuring they have access to reliable, high-speed internet. This is yet another great result of Senate Bill 2 which I signed 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 to close the gap on the digital divide in our state.”
As for rural Georgians who’ve waited as patiently as possible for years, the news is digital music to our ears.