Digital Divide

The Divide: How a co-op is solving 'the broadband problem' in rural Georgia

On this episode, we're joined by Jonathan Chambers, a partner with Conexon; and Herschel Arant, senior vice president of energy supply and external services at Central Georgia EMC, a rural electric cooperative serving parts of 14 counties in central Georgia.

We discuss their partnership to build out a fiber broadband network to an unserved region of the state and how their collaboration led to the creation of Conexon's ISP arm, Connect. We also get into why electric cooperatives are especially well placed to close the digital divide in the rural US and Chambers' view that they should receive the bulk of federal broadband funding.

"If you look in Georgia, or Florida, or Mississippi, or Arkansas or anywhere we build, the owners of the network are becoming the people who live and work in those areas. And that's what will make the difference," said Chambers. "If you're going to spend public money, spend it on the people who live and work in rural areas."

Here are a few topics discussed in this episode:

  • Background on Conexon (01:19)
  • Why Central Georgia EMC decided to tackle the region's "broadband problem" (02:25)
  • Conexon's role in operating the network and acting as the ISP with its Connect arm (04:23)
  • Challenges to the fiber build so far (09:50)
  • How the build is being funded (16:24)
  • Why Conexon's Chambers argues BEAD funds should go to co-ops (17:07)
  • How the new fiber network will change the future for central Georgia (21:30)

Related stories and links:

Nicole Ferraro, editor, Light Reading, and host of "The Divide" podcast.

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