State Senate Approves Plan To Boost Rural Broadband; State Launches Internet Speed Project

Rural broadband has been a hot topic over the last few years, and the transition to online instruction due to COVID-19 has shown real gaps in areas that do not have access to high-speed Internet access.

The Georgia Senate passed legislation that would allow the state Public Service Commission to regulating how much electric co-ops can charge ISPs to attach to power poles. The Georgia Recorder has some of the discourse between Republican senators who debated on the effectiveness of the bill:

In some communities, an EMC is charging three times as what Georgia Power does in the same area and state regulators should be able to determine what’s the fairest rate, Kennedy said.

“This bill is not a silver bullet to take care of and solve all broadband problems in Georgia,” Kennedy said. “It is not the panacea to make sure that rural Georgia gets fiber. The question is, does this legislation move it in the right direction.”

“I do not believe that taking money from a bunch of nonprofit boards that we elected at home, take money from them, and shift it to a bunch of private for profit companies,” Gooch said. “Go look at public financial disclosures. These companies are making billions of dollars in profits every year.”

Related to rural broadband, Governor Kemp’s office announced that the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative will be launching a statewide pilot program with Ookla this August to get a better picture on gaps in sufficient broadband speed. The press release is below:

Atlanta, GA – Governor Brian P. Kemp today announced that the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative (GBDI) is launching the Speedtest by Ookla® pilot project statewide through August. This project is designed to equip school leaders with the clearest picture possible of internet connectivity for Georgia’s students and teachers for the upcoming school year.

“We’re grateful that so many internet service providers and mobile phone carriers have stepped up to meet Georgians’ connectivity needs in this critical time as we’re coping with the continued impact of COVID-19,” said Governor Kemp. “Still, too many households don’t have reliable internet connections, so the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative is introducing the Speedtest project to give Georgia’s educational leaders new data to drive decisions for remote learning options for students.”

Georgians are encouraged to download the free Ookla Speedtest app (Android or iOS-Apple) to the various devices that they use to connect to the internet (smartphones, tablets, laptops, and desktop computers) and take several tests in the places where connectivity is important to them. The easy-to-use Speedtest, along with the information available at the Broadband Initiative website, will assist school leaders as they plan for their digital learning strategies.

Ookla is availing additional data for four Georgia counties – Baker, Clayton, Dougherty, and Gordon – for a more thorough pilot assessment, which will enable county educational leaders in those areas to more effectively evaluate distance learning options in the long term. These counties reflect geographic diversity, different types of digital education options, and various public health metrics related to COVID-19.

The GBDI, led by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Technology Authority, is collaborating with a multi-agency team to assess connectivity options statewide. The Georgia Department of Education, Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, the Georgia Public Library System, University System of Georgia, Georgia State Properties Commission, and Georgia Emergency Management & Homeland Security Agency are all part of this multi-agency team.

The message these agencies will be distributing across the state through August 31:
Is your home internet too slow?
Do you lose a cellphone signal when you are walking around in your home?
Can you get videos on your smartphone, but it takes a long time to download?
Then WE NEED YOU! Take a Speedtest and help internet service providers and mobile phone carriers know where Georgians need better connectivity.

Speedtest Directions (Data rates may apply):
For mobile devices, download the Speedtest app:
Android: Once installed on your device, open and click “GO.” You can also turn on the “Speedtest” function in your “Settings” if you are using an Android device.
iOS (Apple): Once installed on your device, open and click “GO.”
For laptops and computers connected to your home or business internet service:
Go to https://www.speedtest.net/ and click “GO.”

About the Georgia Broadband Initiative

Broadband has become essential to business, education, healthcare, agriculture, and overall quality of life. Unfortunately, high-speed internet access remains out of reach for Georgians, especially those in many rural communities. In 2018, the state launched the Georgia Broadband Deployment Initiative (GBDI). The initiative calls for the promotion and deployment of broadband services throughout the state to unserved areas with a minimum of 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds to increase economic, education, and social opportunities for Georgia citizens and businesses.

About Ookla®

Ookla is the global leader in mobile and broadband network intelligence, testing applications, and technology. With over 10 million consumer-initiated tests taken daily on the company’s flagship platform, Speedtest®, Ookla provides invaluable insight into the performance, quality, and accessibility of networks worldwide. Operators, businesses, and government agencies alike rely on Ookla for unparalleled and immediate information on the state of networks and online services.

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