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Fiber internet likely to take 4-5 years

Southern Rivers Energy recently announced a formal partnership with Conexon, a full-service broadband consulting firm, that will provide high-speed internet to every SRE member across its nine-county service territory, including around 5,000 accounts in Pike. ’The project in Pike includes more than 460 miles of fiber for a total investment of more than $12.5 million. We are still working out details with Conexon including the network design and construction timeline but will share those details as soon as they are available,’ said Erin Cook, SRE’s director of marketing and member services. ‘We are also in discussions with Pike County and the Development Authority about how they may be able to assist with the project.’ Conexon Connect, the internet service provider, will offer two symmetrical (same upload and download speed) internet speed packages: 100 Mbps for $49.95/month or 1 Gigabit for $79.95/month. Information on how to pre-register will be available soon. Members can find updates at SouthernRiversEnergy.com or ConexonConnect.com or follow Southern Rivers Energy and Conexon Connect on Facebook and Twitter. Fiber construction for high-speed internet in Pike is expected to begin in mid-2021. Services will be offered through Conexon Connect in collaboration with SRE. The project will provide new broadband service to more than 15,000 unserved locations in SRE’s service territory where, currently, there are no options for connectivity. SRE will invest approximately $53 million to construct more than 2,100 miles of fiber that will strengthen their electric grid and improve reliability. Conexon will invest a total of $6.5 million in electronics to provide broadband service to all of SRE’s members. SRE will own the fiber and lease excess capacity to Conexon which has agreed to serve every SRE member with fiber-to-the-home internet with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second. The internet service will be powered by EMC fiber, but Conexon Connect will provide the retail service to homes and businesses, managing account set-up, customer service and billing. Those who are not SRE customers cannot change electric providers unless they move into another provider’s territory but according to Cook, some non-SRE members will be able to receive service depending on where they live. ’If they are in a census block where Conexon, our partner, won grant funds through the FCC’s Rural Digital Opportunity Fund Phase I auction last fall, they will have access to the service Conexon Connect is providing,’ she said. ‘The goal is to provide service to every SRE member who wants it as quickly as possible but we do not have a timeline developed yet. Conexon is currently navigating the FCC’s and Georgia Public Service Commission application process to receive the funding won in the RDOF auction. We want everyone to understand that there is a make-ready process that has to happen before actual construction can even begin and that will take months to complete. So people may see trucks in their neighborhood but that does not mean they are already hanging fiber. Our current infrastructure has to made ready to accommodate fiber in addition to the electric wire and other attachment currently on the poles.’ The project is expected to be complete in 4 to 5 years but construction and subscriber connections will take place in phases based on the system design, starting at substations. The initial goal of the fiber-to-the home part of the project is to provide high-speed internet to every SRE member who wants service. ’We are thrilled we found Conexon to partner with and are confident they will provide the level of service our members expect and deserve. We will continue to communicate milestones and new information with our members frequently and consistently,’ said Cook.

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