Georgia governor celebrates project funded by COVID relief he opposed

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A year before touting the broadband project, Gov. Brian Kemp said the American Rescue Plan was a 'slap in the face' to Georgia.

In a press release issued on Tuesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, touted investments that will extend broadband services to 31,000 people in his state, investments that are financed in large part by funds from the American Rescue Plan. But in 2021, Kemp attacked the plan, describing the legislation as a "slap in the face" to his state.

The release announced a partnership between electric cooperative Flint Energies and internet services provider Conexon Connect to expand broadband access to nine counties.

"This $90 million project is made possible through recently announced American Rescue Plan grant funds of $25 million, $7.5 million FCC Rural Digital Opportunity Funds, and significant investments by Flint Energies and Connect," the release noted.

Almost exactly a year before, Kemp authored a Mar. 2, 2021, opinion column on the website of conservative outlet Fox News attacking the Rescue Plan and the formula it used to distribute funds.

"The COVID-19 relief package, as currently written, is a slap in the face to hardworking Georgians," Kemp wrote, also describing the package as a "blue state bailout."

The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, designed to stimulate economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, went on to pass the House and Senate with only Democratic votes and was signed into law by President Joe Biden nine days after Kemp's op-ed appeared.

In addition to the project being promoted in Kemp's press release, Rescue Plan funds are being used in other ways to expand broadband in Georgia.

Grants totaling $130 million from the plan are being given to electric co-ops in the state, which will spend the next few years installing broadband in rural areas. At least 65,000 people across Georgia will have broadband access when the projects are complete. These areas were previously not served when major telecom companies began deploying broadband lines.

"We're going to go to the last-mile folks who didn't get any service from the big providers, like electricity in the 1930s," Wayne Livingston, president and CEO of the co-op Diverse Power, told the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.

The Biden administration has stated that its goal is "ensuring all Americans have access to reliable, affordable, and high-speed internet" and has prioritized programs and funding to include rural regions and Native American tribes as part of that mission.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.