Editorial: We can get there

We already knew we were stronger together, but last week two local companies announced a partnership that accomplishes something many larger corporations have argued is simply impossible. 
During the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce’s annual legislative breakfast Friday, Jefferson Energy Cooperative’s President and CEO Chris Dillard said that by working with Pineland, a telephone cooperative that previously operated south and west of its own area, they will be building a fiber optic backbone to provide business customers in Wrens and Louisville with a much more powerful communications network than has ever been available in those areas.
Not only will this benefit both of these co-operatives, allowing for better electrical transmission services and a bigger footprint and customer base for Pineland, but it will also benefit you, me and everyone in our community. 
Rep. Mack Jackson, who was in attendance at the breakfast Friday, serves on a study committee for the legislature which is looking closely at the economic development needs of rural Georgia. Jackson said that in every community the committee has visited, the need for broadband internet service is one of the primary subjects mentioned. And state Sen. Jesse Stone said that the lack of broadband availability is one of the primary barriers to economic development outside of the state’s major metropolitan areas.
For years, area citizens have been asking for internet broadband service. Companies have looked at our area but have not been interested; because, the cost to bring this service to us has been too high or there aren’t enough potential customers for it to be worthwhile or both.
At $25,000 per mile above ground and even steeper prices below ground, Dillard and Pineland’s General Manager Dustin Durden both explained that the capital expenses involved in building the fiber network have indeed been the biggest deterrent for most communications companies.
“All of these other companies say you can’t do it, but Pineland has found a way to make it work in rural Georgia,” Jackson said. 
The answer, Dillard said, lay in the partnership and the fact that Jefferson EMC and Pineland are both co-operatives that do not have the demand for high profits that other industry stockholders demand. While they have to make sound business decisions that will not negatively impact their members, they can focus more on the services that are needed and have more flexibility in finding ways to fill those needs. 
By using Pineland’s existing connections, Jefferson EMC and Georgia Transmission can tie in and then use their existing power poles to run the cable across the county. Pineland will then build their own networks within each city. For now the services will be offered to business customers only. Residential customers will have to wait for the network to expand even further or rely on one of the other providers in the area.
The impact on economic development in our area from this bold partnership could be huge. Once in place, whilch could be by mid 2018, our community will be able to offer both existing and potential businesses a service that other rural areas simply do not have. 
In rural communities like ours, this type of collaboration is a great example of what we can achieve when we maintain a vision focused on the needs of the community and utilize the collaborative networks that already exist.  Sometimes it isn’t competition that drives innovation, it’s cooperation, linking arms to reach farther than anyone else.
We can get there – together.