Board of Education joins Internet Expansion Partnership

MC Schools

News Release Monday, February 8, 2021
Monroe County Board of Education joins Internet Expansion Partnership
The Monroe County Board of Education is partnering with the Monroe County Commission and two area electric providers to bring high-speed internet to all areas of Monroe County. The Board of Education's unanimous vote to support the project with a financial commitment came during a special called meeting Friday afternoon.
County Commission Chairman Greg Tapley was present to explain the project along with representatives of Central Georgia and Southern Rivers Electric Membership Corporations, both of which serve Monroe County residents. Tapley said the agreement with the EMCs came after a lengthy exploration process by the county.  The two electrical providers, working with a private contractor, will extend fiber optic lines to all of their customers in the county within the next 10 to 12 months.  All total, the project will be a $30 million investment in Monroe County.
Chairman Tapley told the BOE that to move Monroe County to the "top of the list" for this project, county commissioners have committed $630,000 above an already pledged $700,000 in county sales tax revenue. Having the school system as a partner to benefit its students would speak volumes to state officials, Tapley said.
The Monroe County partnership to provide broadband service to rural areas will be a model of community cooperation in the state, said Tapley. Without the combined financial and public support behind the project, Monroe County would be down the list and waiting another two to four years to see the expansion in the county. 
Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman said school officials investigated the appropriate funding source to join in the project, determining it would fit best coming from an allotment of federal funds in the 2021 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The funds are intended to assist school systems in serving the needs of students during the period of the pandemic. The school system's contribution to the internet project will be $360,000 -- half of the additional funds pledged by the county.
 
"We thank you for providing us the opportunity to participate in this effort," Board Chair Dr. Priscilla Doster told Tapley and the EMC officials. "This will be very beneficial to everybody in the county, but particularly for the young people who are becoming dependent on the internet for opportunities for virtual learning."
In addition to benefiting Monroe County School students, the expansion of internet into rural areas will provide economic benefits to the entire county, sparking housing growth and increasing safety and security, Tapley said. He also explained that the additional infrastructure will be added to the utility portion of the county's tax base, producing additional tax payments by the EMCs. The county and school board's financial contribution will be recouped over two years while the added taxes will continue past that period.
"It's good for us to partner together to provide for our community's families and children," said Dr. Hickman. "It's just the right thing to do."
According to officials, the EMCs will work with contractor Conexon, LLC, to extend and install the fiber through the EMC service areas in Monroe County starting this spring.  During the initial rollout, residents will have the opportunity to connect their houses to the fiber at no installation cost.  Monthly service fees will be $50 per month for 100 Mbps unlimited data.
The Monroe County Commission, Board of Education and EMC partnership was announced earlier today (Monday, Feb. 8), at a press conference at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.  Video of the event can be viewed at youtube.com/user/GeorgiaEMC/live.
BOE Internet